"Your local government
voice on marine pollution"

Kommunenes Internasjonale Miljøorganisasjon

Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation

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Pollution from the Oil and Gas Industry
The expansion of the oil and gas industry is a threat to our seas

The Problem... greenpeace-stopped-the-dumping

The European oil and gas industry has expanded since the 1970s. Since the 1960s, nearly £240 billion has been invested in the UK oil and gas industry and new projects should attract a further £18 billion by the end of this decade. This has led to an increase in the volume of hazardous materials and chemicals contaminating Europe's oceans. Many of Europe's oil and gas installations may now be up to forty years old and are approaching the end of their useful lives. An estimated 40% of the 500 or so existing offshore North Sea oil and gas installations will be considered for decommissioning or abandonment in the next 20 to 30 years. For decades the only consideration when disposing of these structures was expense, not the long-term impact on our marine environment.

The landmark decision to deny Shell the right to dispose of their 14,500 tonne Brent Spar oil storage facility in Norway's inland fjords in 1995 was significant. Incredibly, even the United Kingdom government supported Shell on this issue. This event set a positive precedent; it was now fundamentally unacceptable to allow oil companies to dispose of unwanted oil platforms into our oceans.



KIMO works toward the safe and responsible removal of all structures from the seabed which have been discarded by the oil and gas industry. Of those left at sea, a strict long-term management regime must be implemented to reduce future liabilities. KIMO took a vehement stance against the intentional dumping of Shell's Brent Spar oil-rig in Norway's  inland fjords. This opposition led to the development of the OSPAR Strategy with regard to decommissioning of redundant oil installations. The KIMO position has always been that, in addition to any 
activities that may impact on the environment, there are social, moral and economic implications that must be taken into account and that these must be weighted equitably. In the case of the oil industry it is not acceptable that a major industry is allowed to dispose of its waste irresponsibly while ordinary citizens are encouraged and required to do otherwise. Taking into account KIMO RESOLUTION 1/95 (Amended 1998), KIMO is still of the view that all redundant installations including associated operational structures such as pipelines should be removed and reused or returned to land for reuse, recycling or disposal. However it is also understandable that this may not be possible in some cases due to safety and technical requirements. It is not acceptable that installations should be left in situ based solely on cost implications alone. Any case for derogation must also be independently assessed.

The oil industry has been at the forefront of developing technology and improving its safety record when operating in extreme climate and environmental conditions where it has an incentive to develop new fields. If required, it could also use this expertise in the future to develop the technologies that currently are not available to improve the risks associated with total removal of these installations. It is our view that as the decommissioning industry develops over the successive years some of these problems may be overcome.

Therefore KIMO believes that the oil industry and European Governments should develop financial mechanisms to fund such research and to undertake removal at a later date. KIMO also believes that should any derogation be given by OSPAR, it should contain a condition that these issues are reviewed at a reasonable period (10 to 15 years). KIMO is also of the opinion that at no time should public funds be used to undertake the long-term liabilities for the maintenance, compensation and insurance issues that will result in approval for derogation under OSPAR Rules of Procedure. Any future financial burdens must remain with the company.

KIMO is aware that under current financial regimes companies will be responsible at least until production licences expire. It welcomes the requirement from some North Sea States for this liability to remain into perpetuity.

Information and Resources Centre
Learn more about KIMO's actions and further information on the issue

KIMO Resolutions


Related Reports

KIMO has authored a number of reports documenting the organisation's stance on oil cleanup related issues. See below for details:

  • The Decommissioning of Offshore Oil and Gas Installations: A Review of Current Legislation, Financial Regimes and the Opportunities for Shetland  Read more...


  • Analysis of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster 2010: A summary of key reports and response efforts  Read more...   


      Web links

     Below are several web links about the issue of oil and gas industry pollution: 


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