The government will increase its inspection of North Sea drilling rigs in the wake of the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) announced today.
Energy secretary Chris Huhne said an urgent review of the measures governing the oil and gas industry in UK waters to ensure safety and protect the environment had found that the regulatory regime was “fit for purpose”.
But in the wake of the explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 workers and left up to 5.5Ml of oil spewing into the ocean a day, steps were being taken to strengthen the regime further.
The number of annual environmental inspections on drilling rigs will be doubled and a new oil industry group is being asked to report on the UK’s ability to prevent and respond to a potential spill.
Huhne said the events unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico were “devastating”, and that it was his responsibility to make sure the oil and gas industry maintained the highest practices in this country.
“It’s clear that our safety and environmental regulatory regime is fit for purpose. It is already among the most robust in the world and the industry’s record in the North Sea is strong,” he said.
“But the Deepwater Horizon gives us pause for thought and, given the beginning of exploration in deeper waters west of Shetland, there is every reason to increase our vigilance.
“Initial steps are already under way, including plans to double the number of annual environmental inspections by Decc to drilling rigs and the launch of a new industry group to look at the UK’s ability to prevent and respond to oil spills.
“In addition, I will review our new and existing procedures as soon as the detailed analysis of the factors which caused the incident in the Gulf of Mexico are available.”