The offshore industry is constantly being challenged to demonstrate environmental awareness and sound environmental management. Nowhere is this more true than Liverpool Bay off the west coast of the United Kingdom where BHP Petroleum E/R/A/ME Region (BHP), formerly Hamilton Oil Company Ltd, is presently operating in both exploration and development phases of operation. BHP has drilled over 20 exploration and development wells in these shallow, nearshore and environmentally sensitive waters. Now BHP is preparing to install 7 fixed installations and to drill additional development wells to support a large integrated offshore development. BHP must demonstrate that it can manage the environmental issues associated with this development whilst meeting the demands of a highly cost conscious industry in the face of tightening regulatory control and growing public awareness.
Describing and documenting an environmental management system is relatively common place. Completing an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is increasingly common, even for offshore projects. However, the authors believe that little has been done to formally link the results from an EIA with a company's environmental management system. In comparison this has been done with UK offshore Safety Cases where a hazard assessment study has been coupled with a Safety Management System to demonstrate understanding and effective management of the key safety risks. The authors believe that linking the key environmental risks to the environmental management system is essential to achieve effective management.
It was with these thoughts in mind that the authors developed the Liverpool Bay Case for the Environment (the Case). The Case has been designed as a practical working tool, with a number of objectives in mind. It aims ultimately to demonstrate the use of "best available techniques not entailing excessive cost" (BATNEEC) for all operations. It assists in setting practical targets and identifies variances between these targets and current performance. Furthermore, it provides a focus for evaluating and justifying prioritised improvements by directing attention to where there is the greatest measured (as opposed to perceived) risk. Equally important, it also demonstrates where action/expenditure is not merited.
The Case challenges more complicated attempts at risk management and can be easily interpreted by the offshore supervisor. Quantifying risk in a scientific, systematic manner allows the actual environmental risks to be identified rather than those risks that may be currently in vogue. The authors believe this to be of significant benefit, as it helps ensure the key risks are addressed by Management.
The Case mirrors the essential elements of accepted Safety Case methodology. There is, however, a fundamental difference in that there is no easy parallel to the safety concept, where risk to human life is the measure of acceptability. The paper describes how this difficulty was overcome and how the results of these studies are translated into effective management of the key environmental risks of a major offshore development.