Streamlining the regulatory journey for offshore oil and gas decommissioning

OPRED general info

The Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment & Decommissioning (OPRED) is responsible for regulating environmental and decommissioning activity for offshore oil and gas operations in the UK.  Opred is part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

OPRED regulates the planning and execution of offshore oil and gas decommissioning and ensures that the industry fulfils its legal obligation in relation to the offshore oil and gas decommissioning regulatory regime for the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS), specifically to ensure that those who have benefited from the exploitation or production of hydrocarbons bear the responsibility for decommissioning.

The OPRED decommissioning team has two core objectives:
1. Achieve decommissioning solutions that are consistent with regulatory obligations
2. Protect the taxpayer from paying for the full cost of decommissioning.

In order to achieve these objectives, the team has two key areas of focus: the Decommissioning Programme team is responsible for approving, regulating and monitoring the execution of decommissioning programmes for all UKCS oil and gas installations and pipelines; and the Policy and Financial Governance team is responsible for developing offshore oil and gas decommissioning policy and guidance and assessing companies' financial capability to meet their decommissioning obligations.

Owners of oil and gas installations and pipelines are legally required to decommission their offshore infrastructure at the end of a field's economic life. Planning for decommissioning should begin during the late life stage of operations, and engagement with OPRED should be initiated in advance of cessation of production. Most oil and gas operators will start dialogue with the regulator two to five years in advance of cessation of production, depending on the complexity of the project.

Plans to decommission disused installations and/or pipelines should be set out in a Decommissioning programme and submitted to OPRED for consideration.  A Decommissioning Programme and submitted to OPRED for consideration. A Decommissioning Programme must identify all the items of equipment, infrastructure and materials that have been installed or drilled and describe the decommissioning solution for each.  Along with the Decommissioning Programme, operators must submit an Environmental Appraisal report detailing the potential environmental impacts of the selected decommissioning option and identifying any significant environmental impacts and any mitigation or remedial works which may be required. Operators should discuss the proposals with OPRED's Environmental Management Team to confirm the environmental regulatory requirements relevant to the proposed decommissioning activities, and to discuss the procedures for obtaining or surrendering any relevant consents, permits etc.

During execution of the Decommissioning Programme, OPRED must be kept informed of progress.  When decommissioning activity has been completed, operators must submit a Close Out Report within one year of completion of the offshore work, including debris clearance and post-decommissioning surveys.

OPRED will provide support and guidance throughout the process explaining the different data requirements and assessments required at each stage.


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