Europe's Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation (Official Journal of European Union, 2006) is the most wide-ranging piece of legislation that has ever been applied to the chemical industry. However its impact is not confined to that industry alone because REACH is designed to control not only which chemicals may be manufactured and imported into the European Union but also where and how they may be used. There are, therefore, significant implications for the oil and gas industry, which is a substantial user of chemicals.

Every item supplied to the oil and gas industry is composed of chemicals and therefore governed by REACH. However, the focus of this paper is on the speciality chemicals that are used in drilling and production operations. Many of these chemicals are complex and ill-defined materials that are designed to achieve a certain level of performance rather than to meet specific chemical composition requirements. Consequently the manufacturers and suppliers of such materials find themselves challenged by legislation that is better suited to well-defined chemical species.

The deadline for completion of first phase registrations under the transitional arrangements for existing materials expired at the beginning of December 2010. During this initial phase, manufacturers/suppliers were confronted with a number of scenarios that have not arisen previously. They have been obliged to cooperate with their suppliers, competitors and customers in formal data sharing arrangements while ensuring strict compliance with competition rules.

Such efforts have been hindered by the difficulties involved in analysing very complex materials and determining what is an acceptable degree of sameness between them. In addition, manufacturers have had to cope with the intricacies of environmental testing protocols to satisfy the regulatory endpoints.

This paper outlines the challenges and describes how one company has addressed them.

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