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Keywords:

  • Risk assessment;
  • Produced water;
  • Offshore oil and gas;
  • Risk management

Abstract

In 1996, the Norwegian government issued a White Paper requiring the Norwegian oil industry to reach the goal of “zero discharge” for the marine environment by 2005. To achieve this goal, the Norwegian oil and gas industry initiated the Zero Discharge Programme for discharges of produced formation water from the hydrocarbon-containing reservoir, in close communication with regulators. The environmental impact factor (EIF), a risk-based management tool, was developed by the industry to quantify and document the environmental risks from produced water discharges. The EIF represents a volume of recipient water containing concentrations of one or more substances to a level exceeding a generic threshold for ecotoxicological effects. In addition, this tool facilitates the identification and selection of cost-effective risk mitigation measures. The EIF tool has been used by all operators on the Norwegian continental shelf since 2002 to report progress toward the goal of “zero discharge,” interpreted as “zero harmful discharges,” to the regulators. Even though produced water volumes have increased by approximately 30% between 2002 and 2008 on the Norwegian continental shelf, the total environmental risk from produced water discharges expressed by the summed EIF for all installations has been reduced by approximately 55%. The total amount of oil discharged to the sea has been reduced by 18% over the period 2000 to 2006. The experience from the Zero Discharge Programme shows that a risk-based approach is an excellent working tool to reduce discharges of potential harmful substances from offshore oil and gas installations. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2011;7:668–677. © 2011 SETAC