Produced Water Discharge and Reinjection 

For information on the impact of Brexit on oil and gas environmental legislation, please refer to the pdf document downloadable from the Home Page.

Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Supporting Legislation:
Consent Needed:

Oil Discharge Permit   A permit is required under the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 for both overboard discharge and reinjection of produced water.For production operations, a Life Permit (see OPPC Summary Table) can be applied for that covers all routine oil to sea discharges/reinjection operations, including:

Note: For platforms that routinely use PWRI, a contingency discharge permit can be obtained to cover PWRI downtime events. Contingency discharge schedules will have similar monitoring/reporting requirements as for routine overboard discharges.

FEPA Licence – export to another field for reinjection

For export of produced water for reinjection at another field, a FEPA licence will be required.

The requirements for a FEPA licence do not apply for produced water from satellite subsea tie-backs to a host installation for subsequent treatment and reinjection. The requirements for a FEPA licence also do not apply if produced fluids are shipped to another installation for separation and then subsequent produced water treatment and reinjection, and an exemption will be issued

How to Apply:

Oil Discharge Permit   Oil discharge permits must be applied for on the UK Oil Portal. Oil Discharge Permit applications are made on a Subsidiary Application Template (SAT) in the PETS system. The SAT application is initiated from the relevant MAT. Guidance Notes on the OPPC Regulations and Permit Application are available for download from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (PDF document).A number of discharge streams will require permits under the OPPC Regulations (see OPPC Summary Table). It is possible to submit one oil discharge permit application to cover a number of separate discharge streams containing oil. In fact, this method is actively encouraged by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. For example an installation’s oil discharge permit could include separate schedules for drainage discharges, produced water discharges and periodic discharges such as sand and scale.

Information required on the application form includes:

  • Installation/facility details including any tie-backs
  • Description of sources and types of hydrocarbons
  • Description of any process/treatment system and any improvement programmes
  • Estimated maximum and average production of the discharge stream and hydrocarbon content
  • Details of method used to measure the volume discharged and details of discharge stream sampling facilities
  • Details of discharge facilities

There is no public notice requirement or statutory consultation. However, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero may take advice from third parties for example if the discharge is close to land or close to a relevant site under the Habitats Regulations, or where a sensitive fish spawning area is present.

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.

FEPA Licence – export to another field for reinjection

Following the introduction of the licensing provisions of the Marine and Coastal Act 2009, on 6 April 2011, it was dis-applied in English and Welsh waters and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland. However, FEPA Part II still applies in Scottish territorial waters, between the 3 NM Scottish controlled waters limit and the 12 NM Scottish territorial sea limit, where the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will remain the licensing authority and the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 is the relevant controlling legislation.

Application for a FEPA licence can be made using the Marine Licence application, handled by the UK Oil Portal. Enquiries can be sent to

In addition to routine administrative information, you must provide a method statement detailing where the wastes originate, how you propose to transport them to the disposal site, whether you intend to undertake any additional pre-treatment prior to reinjection and how you propose to undertake the reinjection operation. The latter should include a technical case to support the safe injection and containment of any disposed material. You must additionally provide an assessment of the alternative means of disposal to demonstrate that offsite reinjection is the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO).

Where disposal by reinjection will be at a site operated by a 3rd party, additional considerations will be required for any transshipment of wastes and the appropriate authority should be contacted to discuss the proposals prior to any formal application.

Applications that may have the potential to affect a designated European Site will also be subject to the provisions of the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 2007 as amended by The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (including sites proposed for designation).

Who to Apply to:

Oil Discharge Permit   Application under the new OPPC Regulations to be submitted electronically to the UK Oil Portal as a SAT with the relevant MAT in the new PETS system.FEPA Licence – export to another field for reinjection

For off-site injection operations in offshore waters adjacent to Scotland (i.e. excluding Scottish controlled waters), contact:

Environmental Management Team
DECC Licensing and Consent Unit (LCU-OED)
Atholl House
86/88 Guild Street
Aberdeen AB11 6AR

For off-site injection operations in English and Welsh waters (both near-shore and offshore waters), contact:

Marine Consents and Environment Unit
Ergon House
Horseferry Road
London SW1P 2AL

Off-site injection is unlikely to take place in Scottish controlled waters (within three miles of the territorial seas baseline), where the FEPA Part II licensing authority is:

Environmental Protection Group
FRS Marine Laboratory
PO Box 101
375 Victoria Road
Aberdeen AB11 9DB

When to Apply:

Oil Discharge Permit   Applications must be submitted at least 28 days before the permit is required.FEPA Licence – export to another field for reinjection

Applications normally take eight to ten weeks to process, but may take longer.

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.

However, the OPPC Regulations do not apply to hydrocarbons or substitute hydrocarbons that are designated as chemicals for the purpose of the Offshore Chemicals Regulations 2002.

Location of Discharges: Discharges of produced water may only take place from those locations and at the depths specified in the schedule attached to the Oil Discharge permit.
Produced Water Sampling (Hydrocarbon Concentration and Volumes): Monitoring requirements will depend on the total hydrocarbon discharge from an installation per year and whether overboard discharge/reinjection, and will be detailed in the permit when issued. Likely sampling and measurement/calculation requirements are as summarised in the OPPC Sampling Requirements Table. Samples should be analysed as per current DECC standards (see the Performance Standards tab). The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Guidance on the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges is available here. For installations discharging produced water to sea containing > 100 tonnes of dispersed oils per annum, operators will be expected to investigate the installation of on-line oil in water analysers, to replace manual sampling. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Guidance on the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges is available here.
Produced Water Sampling (Additional Analyses Requirements): In addition to routine sampling requirements, separate samples of produced water are required to be taken on a bi-annual basis at approximately 6 monthly intervals (or on 1-2 occasions during contingency discharges if PWRI is the usual disposal route) and analysed for total aliphatics, total aromatics, total hydrocarbons, BTEX, NPD, 16 EPA PAHs, organic acids, phenols and heavy metals. Guidance on analysis requirements are available from the OPPC Guidance Note (PDF document). See the OPPC Sampling Requirements Table for when additional sampling is required.
Produced Water Metering: Volumes of produced water being discharged had to be metered under the requirements of the Produced Water Trading Scheme. Metering uncertainty must be within +/- 10%. The Produced Water Trading Scheme has been revoked (see the Pending Legislation tab for details). Metering requirements will however remain in place.
NORM Analysis: Quarterly samples of produced water must be collected and returned to shore for analysis of NORM. Four samples to be taken on an annual basis at approximately equal time periods. Samples are to be taken from the produced water discharge points as detailed in the Oil Discharge Permit. Analysis is to be undertaken by high resolution gamma spectrometry for Ra-226, Ra-228 and Pb-210. Both suspended solids and dissolved activity are to be measured. Activity concentration in Bq/l is to be multiplied by produced water discharge volume to give total discharge. A sampling/analysis protocol is in the process of being developed and will be issued to operators.
GC / FID Analysis:

From January 2007 the preferred method for oil in water analysis is the GC/FID method. This may not be suitable for use on all offshore installations and a Joint Industry Project (JIP) has been established to investigate how the new GC/FID method is implemented. Other oil in water analysis methods will have to be calibrated against the GC/FID method to ensure results are comparable.OSPAR GC-FID will be applied at all oil and gas facilities where oil in water figures are reported to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Facilities may still use the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero IR method but it will require correlation with the GC-FID method. There are two ways that operators can accommodate the above:

  • Install GC equipment offshore to meet new requirements.
  • Continue to use IR method but send all samples onshore to a recognised laboratory for correlation against the GC-FID reference method.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Guidance on the Sampling and Analysis of Produced Water and Other Hydrocarbon Discharges is available on the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero website.

For the purposes of the Produced Water Trading Scheme the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has issued a written statement confirming that for the purposes of trading, operators will analyse produced water samples using the new GC-FID reference test method and report results against allocations issued (against original IR results). This system will be place for 2007-2009.

Environmental Monitoring: Environmental monitoring requirements will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Where monitoring is considered to be appropriate, the requirements will be discussed and agreed with the permit holder, and the requirements detailed in the permit schedules. If the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero considers it necessary or expedient to undertake an independent monitoring programme to assess the impact of the permitted discharges, the permit holder may be required to fund, or contribute to the cost of the study.
Staff Competency: Persons undertaking produced 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:

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

The following records must be retained on the offshore installation for 2 years and reported to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero:

  • Date and time of sampling
  • Hydrocarbon concentration of each sample (mg/l)
  • Volume of produced water discharged/reinjected between each sample
  • Total volume of produced water discharged/reinjected each calendar month
  • Total weight of dispersed oil discharged/reinjected each calendar month (tonnes)
  • Monthly average dispersed oil concentration (mg/l)*
  • Total weight of dispersed oil discharged/reinjected each calendar year (tonnes)
  • Total volume of produced water discharged/reinjected over the calendar year
  • Average dispersed oil concentration over the calendar year (mg/l)*

(* Not required for produced water reinjection streams.)

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 hard copies only 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.

Results of any additional analysis (i.e. aliphatics, aromatics, heavy metals, etc.) undertaken bi-annually or during contingency discharges should be reported via EEMS within 2 months of the mid-year and 2 months of the year end.

Discharge volume measurement or calculation method validation should be reported to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero annually.

NORM/OSPAR analysis

Reporting of activity and total quantities discharged (see the Sampling/Monitoring Requirements tab).

Who to Report to Hydrocarbon concentrations, produced water discharge/reinjection volumes, total weight of dispersed oil discharged/reinjected and results of any additional analysis (including NORM) are to be reported via the EEMS reporting system using the EEMS oil in water spreadsheet, which can be downloaded from the EEMS website.Also see the Non Compliance tab.
When to Report

Produced water discharges and reinjection  Submit EEMS Oil in Water to the EEMS website by the 16th of each calendar month for each preceding calendar month.NORM analysis

Submit via the EEMS system on a quarterly basis within 28 days of the end of each quarter.

What to do if in Breach of Consent/ Authorisation:

In the event that the monthly average concentration of dispersed oil in produced water discharged exceeds 30 mg/l or 100 mg/l at any one time, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero must be informed using the OPPC non-compliance forms, accessed and submitted through the Integrated Reporting Service (IRS) on the UK Energy Portal. Guidance is available for this here.

All accidental/unplanned discharges to sea of oil (including crude oil, diesel oil, lubricating oil and hydraulic oil) or chemicals (including OBM), regardless of volume, must be reported by PON1. The details for reporting this are provided in Chemical Spills.

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 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 report an unpermitted discharge of oil
  • 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.

Oil Discharge 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.

Oil and gas: environmental policy:

Information and minutes for OSPAR, REACH and research groups and forums for offshore oil and gas, in particular notes detailing the OSPAR – Risk Based Approach For The Management Of Produced Water.

DECC Environmental Alert (001/2014)- PON1 Reporting:

Issued by DECC (now the 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.

Risk-Based Approach to the Management of Produced Water Discharges from Offshore Installations (fact sheet):

The OSPAR Commission has published a fact sheet (PDF document) detailing the Risk-Based Approach to the Management of Produced Water Discharges from Offshore Installations.

OPRED are currently preparing an update to this document, with the next upcoming cycle lasting from 2021 to 2024 (announced here).

Risk Assessment: There may be pressure from the offshore chemical regulations regime and OSPAR to assess discharge impact on the marine environment as current legislation does not target PAHs and the non-oil content of produced water and because the soft-law concept of the Precautionary Approach is increasingly being used as an environmental standard. It is therefore possible that the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will be recommending a ‘goal setting’ approach to controlling the impact of produced water discharges in the future that requires risk-based evidence that a facility’s discharge has no impact on the environment. Oil & Gas UK supports a ‘goal setting’ legal regime.