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.

Oil spill modelling

NOPSEMA has created this oil spill modelling video on what oil spill modelling is and why it is required for the preparation of environment plans.  

NOPSEMA developed its Oil pollution risk management guidance note to provide titleholders with clarification on the regulatory requirements for oil pollution risk assessment as well as the content and level of detail required in an oil pollution emergency plan (OPEP) which in turn supports the development of an acceptable environment plan submission.

While the level of detail provided in any submission to NOPSEMA should be relative to the nature and scale of a proposed activity and its complexity, the guidance note presents a range of considerations that provide an indication of the type and scope of information that may be relevant when developing an environment plan and OPEP.

The oil pollution guidance note supplements the Environment plan content requirements. While both documents focus on the content requirement of an environment plan, the environment plan guidance note discusses the purpose of each regulation and the oil pollution guidance note provides additional information on the application of the regulations to oil pollution risk management.

Note: The guidance note is not a “how to guide” on oil pollution risk assessment, contingency planning, implementation of spill control measures or OPEP design. It is also not intended to replace technical spill response guidance published by other government and industry bodies.

The guidance note does not address the relative merits of different oil pollution risk assessment methods, oil pollution control measures or options for OPEP design and structure. There are a number of technical oil pollution risk assessment and contingency planning guidance documents published by a range of government and industry sources addressing these topics for titleholders to consider.

  • 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.

The NOPSEMA Oil pollution risk management guidance note 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 Operational and scientific monitoring programs information paper 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.

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.

Offshore Oil Pollution Incidents Policy

NOPSEMA has released a new policy on regulatory compliance monitoring, enforcement and intervention for offshore oil pollution incidents, taking into account recent amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.

The policy articulates NOPSEMA’s regulatory considerations in exercising its powers in relation to oil pollution incidents and emergencies that originate in Commonwealth waters, and describes the duties of petroleum titleholders in relation to oil pollution.


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.

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Cross-boundary Greenhouse Gas Titles and Other Measures) Act established designated public officials for engagement with NOPSEMA in the event of an oil pollution emergency. NOPSEMA is required to publish a copy of the notice nominating designated public officials for each State and Territory.

Nomination of a designated public official - SA

Nomination of a designated public official - VIC

Nomination of a designated public official - WA

Nomination of a designated public official - TAS

Nomination of a designated public official - NT

Nomination of a designated public official - QLD

Under the Environment Regulations, titleholders are required to have arrangements in place to conduct monitoring in the event of an oil pollution incident.  This monitoring is crucial to inform response activities and to measure impacts to the environment from the pollution and response activities. To date titleholders have worked independently to develop their monitoring arrangements, however, there has been significant overlap in the content of these plans. Industry has recognised the considerable benefits of working together on a collaborative approach to address this overlap and promote consistency and coordination. APPEA has published a Joint Industry Operational and Scientific Monitoring Plan Framework for oil pollution monitoring arrangements that titleholders can use for monitoring planning purposes. The framework also includes an Operational and Scientific Monitoring Bridging Implementation Plan template to tailor the arrangements to a titleholder’s specific circumstances. NOPSEMA has prepared a Regulatory Advice Statement - Joint Industry Operational and Scientific Monitoring Framework to assist titleholders in applying the framework and template to produce fit-for-purpose oil pollution monitoring arrangements in an environment plan, which will meet the requirements of the Environment Regulations.  

Page last updated: September 1, 2021 11:28am