Despite stringent environmental legislation and the significant reputational impacts of environmental incidents, there are no industry standards specifically aimed at identifying or managing the equipment that prevents such incidents from occurring, A drive towards defining Environmentally Critical Elements (ECEs) has emerged in response to environmental incidents where, in spite of other management systems being in place, incidents have occurred that could have been prevented by systematic analysis and management of the equipment involved. Managing known environmental risks and identifying latent risks will be a major step to improve future performance.

New Guidance has been developed that addresses this gap directly. The development of this guidance constitutes a significant, positive initiative by the industry in the management of environmental risks and incorporates global learning from recent significant environmental incidents. The guidance provides a tool, primarily for offshore operators, drilling rigs and service companies, as well as onshore oil and gas processing terminals to take a structured approach to identify and manage ECEs. However, this approach can be equally applied to wider non-oil & gas industrial sectors. The guideline supports the existing UK regulatory regime and is aligned with applicable international standards such as ISO 14001.

The paper discusses the Guidance in detail covering key concepts such as the ‘environmental event’ - a major environmental hazard where specific controls are required to manage the associated risks – as well as focusing on further key issues such as defining thresholds for environmental events and identifying performance standards.

The paper summarises the full coverage and application of the Guidance as well as the methodology behind its generation and discusses the processes of Assurance, Verification, Implementation and Change Management and how ECE’s should be treated at key management and operational stages. In this new and unique document good practice is set out for the development of a system to enable industry to perform these tasks through a common approach.

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