New UK Environmental Regulator: The Oil and Gas Authority

Plans for offshore installations to be regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority by July 2015
Plans for offshore installations to be regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority by July 2015

As you may be aware, there is shared responsibility for off-shore oil and gas installations with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) assuming responsibility for offshore oil and gas health and safety & the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) regulating both the economic and environmental aspects of oil and gas developments.

Based on calls for change from the Wood Review (February 2014), there were calls for a new Regulator to oversee the UK’s offshore operations. This new Regulator would be an ‘arm’s length’ regulatory body charged with effective stewardship and regulation of United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) hydrocarbon recovery and maximising collaboration in exploration, development and production across the industry.

Later on 11th June 2014 at the Oil and Gas Industry Conference, Chief Secretary to the Treasury the Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP announced the name for the new industry regulator – the Oil and Gas Authority and confirmed Aberdeen as its headquarters.

The Oil and Gas Authority will be designed to encourage economic production in the UK and provide sustainable long-term support for the industry.

Additionally, the Offshore Directive prescribes that Member States must appoint a Competent Authority responsible for the following safety and environmental regulatory functions:

  • Assessing and accepting reports on major hazards
  • Handling notifications of well operations, design notifications and combined operations
  • Determining intervals between inspection of major hazard risk control measures, including to the environment, for a given installation or activity
  • Overseeing compliance by operators and owners with the Directive, including inspections, investigations and enforcement actions
  • Advising other authorities or bodies, including the licensing authority
  • Cooperating with other competent authorities or contact points.

The Competent Authority will be developed from an initial partnership between HSE and DECC, based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will define the Competent Authority arrangements. Both the HSE and DECC will concentrate on their own existing expertise, with day-to-day functions delivered by the respective parts of the DECC Oil and Gas Environment and Decommissioning (OGED) and the HSE’s Energy Division.

For industry and stakeholders, there will be a single, consistent regulatory face with a single set of processes and procedures and single enforcement model for matters covered by the Directive. This will be achieved, in part, by a single on-line portal through which submissions and notifications on major safety hazards or environmental issues can be made. There will be a single intervention plan for each duty holder covering all planned inspection activities by the Competent Authority.

Offshore inspections will be fully coordinated and planned between DECC and HSE, acting as a joint venture where appropriate, but having a lead regulatory partner.

It is anticipated that The Oil and Gas Authority will begin to take shape over the coming weeks and months with expectations under the Offshore Safety Directive, that the new Competent Authority will be finalised by July 2015. Already an advertisement has been placed by DECC for the Chief Executive of the new Authority at

For further information on the relevant United Kingdom off-shore oil and gas environmental legislation, please go to & for a copy of the EU Offshore Directive, please go to

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