Abstract

The North-East Atlantic has become the most heavily regulated offshore area in the world with respect to produced water management. The recent adoption of an OSPAR "Recommendation on a risk based approach to the management of produce water discharged from offshore installations" is a breakthrough which has no equivalent in the rest of the world. North Sea regulations now include heavy constraints on chemicals used and discharged offshore (through produced water - or not), a limit of content of 30 mg/l of dispersed hydrocarbons in the produced water (PW) discharged, a background document on the Best Available Techniques for the management of PW, the mandatory zero discharge to the sea as a point of departure for new facilities, and as stated above, adoption of a risk based approach. In addition to that the European Union adopted a Marine Strategy Framework Directive which is expected to impact some of these parameters.

The paper will detail these measures and will put them in perspective with the requirements in other parts of the world. It will show that while there are few countries ready to embark on a similar approach, the North Sea regulations have already a significant impact in some areas of the world, in developed countries as in developing ones. In most cases, the focus is still on dispersed oil only, but the ecosystem approach which is supported by an increasing number of countries will change the perspective in the coming years. The need for a change step is two folds: on one hand, more PW needs to be reinjected, the most harmful chemicals have to be substituted - or the process changed to avoid the use of the most harmful chemicals; on the other hand, there is an increasing need of sound monitoring around the installations to assess the impact of the discharges on the ecosystem.

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