In advance of the launching of a new oil and gas licensing round, the Minister of State for Natural Resources Conor Lenihan TD today visited the Kinsale gas platform. In Cork, the Minister announced new measures to step up oversight of oil and gas operations in Irish waters. The Minister stated: “In the context of recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, I wanted to see first-hand conditions on petroleum rigs operating in Irish waters. While I am satisfied that all petroleum works carried out in Ireland, from prospecting to bringing the fuel ashore, are carried out to the highest international standards where health, safety and the environment are concerned we must always be sure.”
The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has instituted a Special Oversight of Well Operations in addition to the new Petroleum Exploration and Safety Act, which has recently been enacted by the Oireachtas. The Act confers responsibility for safety matters relating to upstream oil and gas exploration and production in Ireland on the Commission for Energy Regulation. The Commission already has the safety function for downstream operations.
The Special Oversight will include:
- More frequent onboard audits and inspections for routine or critical events
- Verification to the Department’s satisfaction again prior to drilling into objectives that all equipment, systems and procedures are in place to allow operations to proceed safely and without polluting the environment
- Verification to the Department’s satisfaction again prior to drilling into objectives that all personnel and equipment for any oil spill response identified in the company’s own oil spill contingency plan are available for rapid deployment
- Events in the Gulf of Mexico are to be monitored by companies and periodic assessments on the impact of any lessons learned with respect to the Irish well operations and pressure containment will be provided to the Department.
- The Special Oversight is to support the rigorous implementation of the Rules and Procedures and does not imply lack of compliance on the part of the operator.