Oil pollution risk management

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) requires titleholders to prevent the escape of oil to the environment from their activities. Prior to activities occurring titleholders must demonstrate to NOPSEMA that all reasonably practicable measures are in place to prevent oil pollution. Failure to prevent the escape of oil is an offence. 

While oil pollution risk management encompasses prevention, preparedness and response, this page primarily covers the preparedness and response arrangements required in accordance with the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations). See the safety and well integrity pages for more information about the safety and well integrity requirements for offshore activities. 

The Environment Regulations give effect, in part, to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (OPRC) in Australia.

NOPSEMA is the national expert regulator for offshore petroleum activities and an active participant in the Australian Government crisis management framework and Australia’s preparedness and response arrangements under the National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (The National Plan).

In these roles NOPSEMA is responsible for the oversight of response actions to oil pollution events from offshore petroleum operations in areas of Commonwealth jurisdiction. Furthermore, NOPSEMA is responsible for gathering and disseminating incident specific information in accordance with whole of government incident coordination arrangements.


Legislative requirements for management of oil pollution risks
  • The intent of the regulations is to ensure that oil pollution risks associated with the activity have been detailed and evaluated enabling appropriate control measures to be put in place to meet set statements of performance.

  • The titleholder must demonstrate all things reasonably practicable are being done to prepare for their specific oil pollution risks and that the risks posed by oil pollution are of an acceptable level.

  • The environment plan must contain an oil pollution emergency plan which includes adequate arrangements for responding to and monitoring oil. Specifically this includes: 

    - the control measures necessary for timely response

    - arrangements and capability to ensure timely implementation of those control measures and, provide for the ongoing maintenance of capability

    - arrangements and capability in place for monitoring oil pollution to inform response activities as well as monitoring the effectiveness of these activities.

  • The environment plan must include appropriate testing of response arrangements for the nature and scale of the oil pollution risk for the activity.

  • The environment plan must provide for monitoring of impacts to the environment from oil pollution and response activities sufficient to inform any remediation activities.

  • The environment plan must demonstrate that response arrangements are consistent with the national system for oil pollution preparedness and response and, comply with other applicable legislation.

  • The titleholder must have completed and demonstrated the necessary consultation with relevant authorities, response organisations and other stakeholders and, provided for ongoing consultation where appropriate.

  • The titleholder must have demonstrated it maintains financial assurance sufficient to cover the reasonably quantifiable costs, expenses and liabilities associated with oil spill response, clean-up, environmental remediation and ongoing monitoring. Refer to the financial assurance page for further information. 
Oil spill preparedness and response guidance

The NOPSEMA GN1488 - Oil pollution risk management - Rev 2 - February 2018 (PDF 371KB) sets out the core oil pollution risk management concepts and considerations titleholders should have in developing an environment plan/oil pollution emergency plan submission.

The NOPSEMA IP1349 - Operational and scientific monitoring programs - Rev 2 - March 2016 (PDF 1.6MB) provides general advice and information to assist titleholders to develop fit-for-purpose OSMPs. In addition, the OSMPs aim to ensure titleholders can demonstrate an appropriate degree of readiness to implement their monitoring programs in the event of an oil spill.

NOPSEMA has published a bulletin for titleholders on the use of modelling in spill risk evaluations. The bulletin provides technical guidance for titleholders to assist with the consistency and communication of oil spill modelling in environment plans. 

IPIECA-OGP Joint Industry Project developed a collection of technical papers and good practice guidance to provide consistent reference tools for industry in risk assessment and response planning for offshore installations, including detailed information on oil spill risk assessment. 

Australian Government Coordination Arrangements for Maritime Environmental Emergencies

The National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies

The National Plan is an integrated government and industry framework that seeks to enable effective response to marine pollution incidents and maritime casualties. The framework, in accordance with the polluter pays principles of the OPRC 1990, provides for industry as the control agency for all spills which originate from offshore petroleum activities. NOPSEMA collaborates closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), as the manager of The National Plan, to ensure that arrangements under The National Plan, the OPGGS Act and associated regulations are aligned and understood.

Offshore Petroleum Incident Coordination Framework

The Australian Government established the Offshore Petroleum Incident Coordination (OPIC) framework for coordinating a whole of government response to a significant petroleum incident in Commonwealth waters. The framework interfaces with other emergency incident response/coordination arrangements, including The National Plan, titleholder oil pollution emergency plans and state/Northern Territory marine pollution contingency plans as appropriate.

Community information on oil spill risk management

NOPSEMA recognises effective regulation benefits from meaningful communication and engagement with stakeholders. As such NOPSEMA seeks to engage with stakeholders and provide a range of materials to contribute to community understanding of NOPSEMA regulatory functions and matters relevant to offshore petroleum operations. 

The Regulator publication contains articles prepared by NOPSEMA for a broad audience. Articles are searchable via the search function at the top of each webpage. Some articles of interest may include Engaging with stakeholders on envrionmental management; Community questions on offshore petroleum activities (Issue 3: 2018) and Contingency measures for subsea drillling operations (Issue 4: 2018) which includes information on blow out preventers and capping stacks. 

NOPSEMA has also produced materials to assist stakeholders with understanding how oil spill modelling is undertaken, why it is important and how it is evaluated and applied. The linked animation and fact sheet provide an introductory explanation of modelling. 

In relation to oil spill risk management, NOPSEMA has produced a range of publications to contribute to community understanding of NOPSEMA regulatory functions and the obligations of titleholders in spill prevention, preparedness and response planning. Please refer to the NOPSEMA publications page and the quick links on this page. Further information on environment and community matters can be accessed via the main menu.