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Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Unloading and Storage (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2020

Synopsis

These regulations apply revised environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements for a variety of offshore projects.

These projects may not start without consent of the Oil and Gas Authority.

 
 
 

Summary

The Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Unloading and Storage (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2020 revoked and replaced the Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipe-lines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 on 31 December 2020.

What has changed?

The 2020 regulations update Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements on projects for offshore oil and gas exploration and production, offshore gas unloading and storage and offshore capture and storage of carbon dioxide. The legislation applies to

Projects may not start without consent of the Oil and Gas Authority and the Secretary of State must agree any consent decisions by the Oil and Gas Authority. Consent will not be given until the Secretary of State is satisfied with the information provided (including an environmental statement) and that there will be no significant impact on the environment.

EIA Requirements

Where a project is likely to have a significant environmental impact, an EIA must be carried out.

Three Schedules determine EIA requirements for proposed projects:

  • Schedule 1: An EIA must be undertaken in all cases for projects falling under this Schedule. This includes extraction of oil and natural gas for commercial purposes where the 500 tonnes of oil or 500,000 cubic metres of natural gas will be extracted.
  • Schedule 2: A screening direction must be obtained for projects described in this Schedule. This direction will determine whether an EIA must be undertaken and must give the reasons for this decision.
  • Schedule 3: The Secretary of State is to determine whether an EIA is required for projects under this Schedule. This includes certain pipelines

When determining if a project will have a significant effect on the environment, the matters in Schedule 5 must be taken into account.

Public consultations must be undertaken on developments where an EIA is required. The decision to award consent must be made taking public and relevant environmental bodies' opinions into account. Consent may be granted with conditions requiring the developer to reduce significant adverse environmental effects.

Where an EIA is required, the respective environmental statements must include all information stated in Schedule 6. The environmental statement must be prepared by competent experts and include a statement on the competency of these experts.

The regulations also apply arrangements to assess the impact of overseas projects that could have an impact on relevant UK areas.

Changes from the 1999 regulations

The 2020 regulations make the following significant changes to the management of offshore consenting and EIA:

  • The Secretary of State may revoke agreements to grant consent for offshore projects;
  • Civil sanctions are introduced for certain offences;
  • EIA documentation, including screening decisions, is required to be made available on a public website; and
  • Addition of inspection and investigation powers to monitor compliance with conditions attached to consent for projects.

 

 

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