Drainage – Hazardous and Non-Hazardous 

Consent Needed:

Permit required under the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 for discharge of oil contaminated Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Drainage.For production operations, a Life Permit (see OPPC Summary Table) can be applied for that covers all routine oil to sea discharges/re-injection operations, including:

Note: Machinery Space Drainage (i.e. drainage not associated with the oil and gas process system, e.g. from vessel engines, continues to be regulated by the MCA under the Merchant Shipping Regulations).

If all drainage (including any minor machinery space drainage) is treated via the hazardous and non-hazardous drainage system that deals with all the process drainage, it is expected that this will fall under the OPPC Regulations and require an OPPC permit rather than a UKOPP certificate. See Machinery Space Drainage.

How to Apply: Applications for a permit under the OPPC Regulations must be made by application form, which is available for download from the DECC website. Guidance Notes on the OPPC Regulations and Permit Application are available here (PDF document). A permit to discharge oily discharges from a producing facility is likely to be issued as a Life Permit. Non-routine or one-off discharges will be issued as a time limited Term Permit.
Who to Apply to: Application under the OPPC Regulations are to be submitted electronically by email to offshore.inspectorate@decc.gsi.gov.uk the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero plans to incorporate this application system into the UK Oil Portal. Once this is in place, all applications will be made via this system.
When to Apply: Applications must be submitted at least 28 days before the permit is required.
Definition of Oil:

The definition of oil has been updated under the OPPC Regulations and is defined as “oil means any liquid hydrocarbon or substitute liquid hydrocarbon, including dissolved or dispersed hydrocarbons or substitute hydrocarbons that are not normally found in the liquid phase at standard temperature and pressure, whether obtained from plants or animals, or mineral deposits, or by synthesis”. This definition is designed to capture all produced hydrocarbons, including condensate, and all uses of oil in the course of offshore exploration and production activities.

Limits Placed on Drainage Water Discharges:

The monthly average concentration of dispersed oil in drainage water must not exceed 40 mg/l. The maximum concentration of dispersed oil must not exceed 100 mg/l at any time.

Drainage Systems and Associated Maintenance: Arrangements must be in place to ensure oil recovery from the hazardous and non-hazardous drains systems before discharge. Any oil recovery system must be operated to maximise recovery of oil.Where there is no oil recovery system in place and discharge of oil occurs to the non-hazardous drains system, this will be considered an oil spill and a PON1 must be submitted (see the Non-Compliance tab). The drainage systems must be maintained in an efficient working order and any defects recorded.
Location of Discharges: Discharges of drainage water may only take place from those locations and at the depths specified in the schedule attached to the OPPC permit.
Oil in Water Analysis: From 1 January 2007 the approved oil in water analysis reference method is the OSPAR GC-FID Method as per OSPAR Agreement 2005/15. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s IR method may be used as an alternative offshore method but this will need to be correlated with the OSPAR GC-FID method as per OSPAR Agreement 2006/06. The OSPAR GC-FID method is the reference dispersed oil in water analysis method for both oil and gas facilities and oil in water figures reported to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will be reported against this method. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Guidance on the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges is available from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Word document).
Hydrocarbon Concentrations and Volumes Discharged: Likely sampling and measurement/calculation requirements are as summarised in the OPPC Sampling Requirements Table. Where a sample point is available, samples must be collected at a frequency and timing to ensure that a representative sample of the discharge is achieved, taking into account operational aspects and logistics. Additional samples may be requested to demonstrate to BEIS that sampling is representative. Where there is no sample point available or no samples are taken, the operator must within 12 months of issue of the OPPC permit undertake a review to assess the feasibility of installing a sampling point (if required) and facilities to enable representative sampling of the drainage discharge to be undertaken.Samples should be analysed as per current BEIS standards (see the Performance Standards tab). BEIS Guidance on the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges is available through this link (Word document). The following records must be maintained by the laboratory and retained for 2 years:

  • Date and time of sampling
  • Hydrocarbon concentration of each sample (mg/l)
  • Name of person undertaking each sample analysis

Arrangements must be in place to ensure the accuracy and correctness of records. Where records are maintained solely in electronic form, secure systems shall be provided so that all changes are recorded and the original entries are not deleted. Where only hard copies are maintained, the person in charge of the operation shall sign a true copy of the records for the time period over which they have responsibility.

Staff Competency: Persons undertaking water sampling and analysis shall be provided with sufficient information, instruction and training to undertake the task. All training records must be retained.
What to Report: No reporting requirements.
Who to Report to: Not applicable. Also see the Non-Compliance tab.
When to Report: Not applicable.
What to do if in Breach of Consent/ Authorisation: All un-permitted discharges, regardless of quantity must be reported to OPRED and other relevant authorities through the submission of a PON1 or OPPC NCN on the Integrated Reporting Service (IRS) on the UK Energy Portal. If the IRS is unavailable, the OPPC non-compliance form should be submitted to OPRED.
Enforcement and Prohibition Notices The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, if of the opinion that the OPPC Regulations have been contravened, may issue an enforcement notice. This will specify the matters that constitute or are likely to constitute a contravention, steps required to rectify the matter and the time period within which these steps must be undertaken. If an enforcement notice is not addressed, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero may take action itself and recover reasonable costs back from the operator. If the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is of the opinion that the operation of an offshore installation involves an imminent risk of serious pollution as a consequence of any discharge of oil, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero may serve a prohibition notice. This will specify the pollution risk, the steps required to remove it and the time period, and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero may withdraw a permit wholly or in part until the prohibition notice is withdrawn.

Offences under the OPPC Regulations, include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Discharge of oil to sea without a valid and appropriate permit being in place
  • Failure to comply with a prohibition or enforcement notice
  • Failure to supply any information required under the terms of the permit
  • Wilfully obstructing a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero inspector

A person found guilty of an offence will on summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

DECC Inspections The OPPC Regulations give the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero far greater and wider ranging powers to monitor and investigate all oil discharges whether lawful or unlawful.Inspectors may board an installation at any reasonable time and make such investigations as they consider necessary to investigate whether the requirements, restrictions or prohibitions imposed under the OPPC Regulations have been or are being complied with, or to monitor any discharge of oil. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (then DECC) Offshore Oil and Gas Environment Unit Enforcement Policy (PDF document) sets out the general principles that Inspectors shall follow in relation to enforcement including prosecution.
OPPC Permit: Life Permits will be reviewed at a frequency stipulated in the permit schedule. The minimum frequency of review will be every three years.Permit holders have an obligation to continually review their oil discharge permits to ensure that they adequately cover their discharges. If any changes are required for example to take account of a process modification or to add additional activities/discharge streams, permit holders must apply for an oil discharge permit variation. This must be prepared by amending the original application with any changes clearly highlighted. Variations will be dealt with by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero as quickly as possible, but 28 days should be allowed for the assessment of any significant changes.
DECC Environmental Alert (001/2014) – PON1 Reporting:

Issued by DECC (now Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) on 31 March 2014, this environmental alert (PDF document) highlights failures by a number of operators to comply with PON1 reporting requirements.Operators are reminded that in accordance with current reporting requirements PON1s must be reported within 6 hours to:

  • Aberdeen Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in addition to immediate telephone notification to the nearest MRCC Coastguard Station.
  • Department for Energy Security and Net Zero; additional telephone notification is required to the Department for specific scenarios as detailed within the PON1 reporting guidance.
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and any relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) in accordance with installation oil pollution emergency plan arrangements.