Greenhouse gas emissions & climate change

NOPSEMA recognises climate change by considering the health and safety, well integrity and environmental risks and impacts of offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities, supporting the development of a regulatory framework for offshore wind and other renewable technologies, and promoting corporate and individual responsibility in accordance with Australian Government federal policy.

Global commitments

NOPSEMA supports the work of the Australian Government in implementing and meeting policy commitments and associated legal frameworks.

As an Australian Government agency, NOPSEMA is responsible for implementing federal environmental policy. This includes relevant legislative and other requirements that are in place to implement Australia’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the Paris Agreement of 2016 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Managing industry greenhouse gas emissions

NOPSEMAs regulatory decisions follow strict environmental protection legislation that require the environmental impact of offshore petroleum greenhouse gas emissions to be considered, as well as related emissions reporting and reduction frameworks.

Greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum activities, as well as many other human sources, are recognised by scientists around the world for their contribution to climate change.

NOPSEMA’s regulatory decisions are made in accordance with the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 and are guided by other Commonwealth legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation 1999 (EPBC Act) and the National Greenhouse Energy and Reporting Act 2007 (NGER Act).

Under the OPGGS Environment Regulations, where the greenhouse gas emissions of an offshore petroleum activity have an environmental impact, proponents must demonstrate to NOPSEMA in their approval document how that impact will be made acceptable and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.

Under the EPBC Act, NOPSEMA considers the impact of direct greenhouse emissions, and on a case-by-case basis, indirect consequences. Policy guidance on the consideration of indirect consequences is available under the EPBC Act Policy guidance series, including the EPBC Act Policy Statement - 'Indirect consequences' of an action: Section 527E of the EPBC Act.

Under the NGER Act, NOPSEMA considers the greenhouse gas baselines imposed under the Safeguard Mechanism of the NGER scheme which is the national framework for reporting and reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions administered by the Clean Energy Regulator.

NOPSEMA publishes guidance on the content requirements for environmental management approval documents to assist proponents in meeting these and other regulatory requirements.

Regulating greenhouse gas storage activities

NOPSEMA regulates offshore activities where captured greenhouse gas emissions are transported and safely stored underground thereby reducing Australia’s total atmospheric emissions.

In addition to its roles in the regulation of offshore petroleum activities, NOPSEMA also regulates greenhouse gas storage activities in Commonwealth waters under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act).

Such activities include exploration for and operation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) opportunities, which ultimately involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by industrial processes, compressing and transporting the CO2 to an injection site to be sequestered deep underground for safe, long term storage in suitable geological formations.

CCS is part of a suite of management solutions with the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and help address climate change. Both the International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believe that CCS can play an important role in meeting global emission reduction targets.

Permits for the greenhouse gas storage activities are administered by the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources is supporting a number of demonstration CCS projects as part of its CCS flagships program, such as the CarbonNet Project. The project conducted appraisal activities in January 2020, following NOPSEMA’s assessment and acceptance of the relevant health and safety, well integrity and environmental management approval documents.

Consideration of climate change risks

NOPSEMAs regulatory decisions consider the measures needed to mitigate and manage potential natural disaster risks arising from global climate change to offshore facilities and activities.

In 2019, the Australian Government agreed to a National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework outlining foundational actions to be taken across all sectors to address existing disaster risk and minimise the creation of new risk. The framework recognises global climate change as an underlying driver of disaster risk.

Australian Commonwealth agencies consider climate change risks where it relates to their area of responsibility. As such, NOPSEMA’s regulatory decisions will consider the disaster risk to offshore facilities and activities arising from climate change, such as increasing cyclone frequency and intensity and rising sea levels.

Offshore renewable energy technologies

NOPSEMA supports Australia’s transition to greater renewable energy utilisation through the development of a regulatory framework to allow for renewable energy technologies offshore.

NOPSEMA recognises that there is transition occurring in Australia and globally toward greater utilisation of renewable energy resources. NOPSEMA is contributing to this transition by supporting the development of a regulatory framework to enable offshore wind and other renewable energy technologies.

In January 2020, an Australian Government Task Force, of which NOPSEMA is a participant, sought public comment on a discussion paper outlining a proposed regulatory framework. In February, the taskforce also held consultation sessions in Perth and Melbourne. The sessions were well attended by stakeholders representing prospective developers, environmental consultancies, the offshore oil and gas industry, unions, government, legal practitioners and the community.

The proposed framework includes the establishment of an offshore renewables regulator to support the emerging renewable energy industry in protecting the offshore workforce and the environment. The framework recommends that the offshore renewables regulator leverage the existing technical expertise and experience of NOPSEMA in regulating complex offshore infrastructure projects. By establishing the offshore renewables regulator in this way, an expertise-based approach to regulation can be taken whilst ensuring the offshore petroleum industry and the renewable energy industry are regulated in a tailored and independent manner.

The taskforce is now considering the feedback received on the proposed framework with a view toward progressing and implementing legislation in 2021.

Promoting corporate and individual responsibility

NOPSEMA is proactive in reducing the environmental impact of its day-to-day operations, promoting individual action by our staff as well as community and organisational action to reduce their carbon footprint.

There are many benefits to reducing your carbon footprint and the actions and efforts of the Australian Government, business, the community, households and individuals can all make a difference. NOPSEMA believes reducing the environmental impact of our own operations is an important part of our corporate responsibility and encourages individual action of its staff, both in the workplace and at home.

NOPSEMA’s day to day operations are largely office-based with our environmental risk profile limited to our offices in Perth and Melbourne and associated activities such as travel. NOPSEMA continues to adopt measures to reduce its environmental impact by implementing measures such as:

  • travel policies that promote the use of phone and video conferencing in preference to air travel

  • selecting office locations in close proximity to industry stakeholders to minimise travel requirements

  • encouraging staff to walk, cycle or use public transport to and from work by providing suitable end-of journey facilities such as showers, lockers, and secure cycle storage

  • discouraging car use by excluding car parking facilities in our office leasing agreements

  • leasing office premises with a five star energy rating using the National Australian Built Environment Rating System

  • encouraging the reduction of office energy and resource consumption through less printing, procurement waste, and energy use

  • maintaining waste segregation facilities and recycling contracts for paper, cardboard, plastics, batteries and toner ink cartridges.

If you would like more information on how you or your organisation can support action to reduce your carbon footprint visit industry.gov.au.