Drilling and Production Discharges in the Marine Environment
The exploration and development of offshore oil and gas fields is a relatively recent activity. For example, exploration first started in the United States’ Gulf of Mexico in the early 1950s. Gas was not produced from the British sector of the southern North Sea until 1967 and the large North Sea oilfields were developed in the 1970s. At first the environmental impact of offshore operations was unknown and so there were few regulations or standards in place to control discharges. However, soon after offshore operations began, concerns arose about the potential environmental impact of exploration and production activities. The first regulations were therefore developed to control discharges. Over the years treaties, laws and regulations have been promulgated so that now drilling and production discharges are strictly controlled by a complex system of limits. A complicating factor in the early stages of offshore environmental standards was that their development coincided with rapid changes in the technology used in offshore operations. However, the objective of the rules and regulations has always been, and still is, to allow offshore exploration and production to occur while minimizing any associated environmental impacts.
In order to develop effective regulations and the technology required to ensure that the discharges meet the limits, it is necessary to understand both the nature and volumes of the discharges and the sensitivities of the receiving environment. Offshore operations may be in international waters, national waters or in waters under local jurisdiction. In some cases this can mean that more than one regulatory body may be involved.
KeywordsClay Cadmium Shipping Hydrocarbon Sedimentation
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