The legal framework in Europe evolves continuously. Regulations are implemented at national level, but the Europe Commission greatly influences the policy, especially onshore. Offshore, regional conventions, such as OSPAR for the North-East Atlantic still play a leading role.

There is not a single measure which can claim to have dramatically changed the way environmental issues are now regulated in Europe. But the sum of recent measures has substantially modified the still dispersed regulatory framework. And there is no doubt that this ground swell will continue to act in the near future:the Europe Commission already greatly influences most of the onshore policy. Offshore, regional conventions, in particular OSPAR, still play a leading role, but probably for a limited time. The industry has to adapt to that changes which do not relate any more solely to end-of-pipe constraints and techniques, but require a dramatic change in the approach of these issues, to identify and anticipate as early as possible the new technical challenges.


The legal framework in Europe is complex and evolves con-tinuously. Not only two different approaches to national regulatory regimes co-exist (the Common Law and the Civil Law regimes), but measures nowadays are deeply influenced by international treaties, some of which are legally binding, such as the European Union Treaty or the Convention for the protection of the North-East Atlantic, best known as OSPAR.

Moreover, recent issues showed that compliance with the "hard law" may not be sufficient: pressure groups sometimes challenge it and even succeed to impose their view: the consequence of it is the development of a "soft law" (constraints to which the community expects industry will comply on a voluntary basis) in addition to the "hard law".

European production of oil and gas is split over its land as well as over its maritime area. But most of it comes from the North Sea, where almost half a billion tonnes of oil equi-valent (toeq) are produced every year (over 3 billion bbl).

Europe has other key maritime areas: the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and last but not least, the Barent Sea. They all have a tremendous ecological value for the millions on inhabitants around their borders, and most of them are a major source of fish stock for European countries. There are all sensitive: the list of "special areas" of Regulation 10 of Annex 1 of Marpol 73/78, the Convention for the prevention of pollution from ships (1) includes the whole North-West European waters, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterra-nean Sea, and the Black Sea. More recently, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the Interna-tional Maritime Organisation (IMO) designated Western European Waters (2004) as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) (the Wadden Sea was already designated a PSSA in 2002), and approved the principle to add the Baltic Sea (except Russian waters) to the list of PSSA, subject to further investigation.

How is the E&P industry regulated in Europe?

At the SPE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition which took place in San Antonio in 2002, we presented the Environ-mental regulatory framework in the North Sea with a special focus on OSPAR, its organization, its functioning and its measures taken between 1998 and 2001 (SPE paper 77390) (2). Here the purpose is to extend the view of the regulatory framework on Europe, and to update the information presented in 2002.

With regard to Environment, the EU plays by far the major role onshore, while regional conventions specially dedicated to the protection of the maritime area take the leading role offshore, so far. Some European States are not members of the EU: e.g. Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland. Nevertheless most of them signed treaties with the EU which bind their regulations to the EU's: for example, the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) extends the Single Market legislation, with the exception of Agriculture and Fisheries, to Iceland and Norway. Through the EEA Agree-ment (and its "Enlargement Agreement" which entered into force on 1 May 2004) Norway and Iceland participate in a large number of EU programmes covering most EU policy areas, including enterprise, environment, education and research programmes.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.