International meeting of environmental regulators

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 2: 2017

NOPSEMA recently attended the 2017 International Offshore Petroleum Environmental  Regulators (IOPER) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Santa Barbara, California.

The IOPER is a group of offshore petroleum environmental regulators from around the world that formed in 2013 to drive environmental improvement in the offshore petroleum industry. Members include Australia (represented by NOPSEMA), Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The IOPER provides a forum in which international environmental regulators can share their individual and collective experience and exchange ideas on current and emerging challenges. For more information, visit www.ioper.org.

Since its formation, the IOPER has identified a range of common issues for collaboration between members, and engagement with the petroleum industry and other stakeholders. The issues of interest to NOPSEMA include regulating preparedness for and response to oil spills, environmental performance indicators, and marine sound.

At the AGM, IOPER members agreed to continue compiling data on oil spills and discharge of produced water, with a view to generating an initial set of environmental performance indicators which will allow regulators to benchmark industry performance. The IOPER also considered the progress of its Marine Sound Working Group (MSWG). Established in 2016, the MSWG’s role is to bring greater focus to research needs and emerging issues as petroleum activities extend into less-explored areas. The MSWG is chaired by the United States, with membership comprising Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and Norway.

A key outcome of the AGM was for the MSWG to engage with the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers’ joint industry program on sound and marine life (http://www.soundandmarinelife.org/). The MSWG will communicate the IOPER’s perspective, ensuring that priority research needs are recognised, best practice guidance is promoted, and collaborative research initiatives are identified in areas of common priorities.

The AGM also included a symposium on outcomes of research into decommissioning, funded by the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). BOEM develops, conducts and oversees world-class scientific research that informs policy decisions about developing energy and mineral resources on the United States outer continental shelf. Many of BOEM’s research outcomes (https://www.boem.gov/Studies/are applicable to Australian offshore petroleum activities. NOPSEMA strongly encourages titleholders to take these outcomes into account when planning offshore projects and petroleum activities, and to ensure these are included in regulatory submissions.

At the International Oil Spill Conference, held in Long Beach, California around the same time as the AGM, the IOPER addressed oil spill preparedness and response. At the conference, a NOPSEMA oil spill specialist gave a presentation on How much is enough when it comes to oil spill preparedness.

The IOPER also agreed to engage with the petroleum industry in conjunction with the Interspill Conference (www.interspillevent.com) which will be held in London from 13–15 March 2018.