Environmental Regulatory Framework for E&P activities has dramatically increased during the last decade, and no one contests that environment did benefit from the measures taken. But the development of the regulatory framework in many countries, the constraints it creates, raise the question on where the cursor should be fixed.

The latest developments of the regulatory framework show that:

  • expectations from stakeholders increase, for all compartments of the environments, and everywhere in the world;

  • the gap between constraints in countries with a long record of environmental regulations and the others is increasing;

  • but countries which set up environmental regulations for the first time tend to take even tougher measures than the ones implemented in the countries with a long record of environmental regulations;

  • the dialogue between stakeholders, competent authorities and E&P industry is worth the effort to promote it; it requires a change of perspective from all participants.

In that context, the debate on the ultimate goal(s) to pursue, and on the intermediates ones has usually been a source of misunderstanding between the regulators and industry, and it is only very recently that new, more pragmatic, ways to approach a common understanding of how clean is clean appeared, at the light of both the development of better monitoring or predictive tools and of the debate on zero discharge, zero harm to the environment.


Environmental regulatory framework for Exploration and Production (E&P) activities has dramatically increased during the last decade. Not only western countries with long industrial record have set up tougher rules, some based on existing ones (e.g. the new requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System – NPDES, in the US), others on new environmental approaches (e.g. OSPAR set of Decisions and Recommendations adopted between 1998 and 2001 which dramatically changed the way some environmental issues are dealt within the North Sea) (1–6), but countries with so far limited or no environmental framework have developed – or started to develop - environmental regulations, some of them with even tougher constraints than the ones enforced in western countries ones (e.g. Nigeria regulations on drilling fluids and disposal of drill cuttings).

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