The purpose of the 2010 Act is to confer statutory responsibility for the safety of petroleum exploration and production on the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). This implemented a key finding of the safety studies carried out in relation to the Corrib onshore pipeline. Petroleum is defined for this purpose to include both oil and gas.
The Act strengthened the safety, both onshore and offshore, of petroleum exploration activities including drilling, transmission and processing of untreated gas and oil. The need for the new safety regime was highlighted in the report of the Corrib Safety Study published by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on 3 May 2006.
The safety study, carried out by Advantica consultants, involved a critical examination of all relevant documentation relating to the design, construction and operation of the Corrib upstream pipeline (upstream refers to the part of the pipeline before the gas is processed) and associated facilities. The consultants were asked to identify any deficiencies in relation to the safety of the pipeline and to make recommendations as to how these could be remedied.
The final report of the study, together with an additional report by the Corrib Technical Advisory Group (TAG) within the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, recommended that in future responsibility for the safety of the Corrib pipeline and for policing the conditions under which safety- related consents are granted, should be transferred to the energy regulator, CER, under new legislation. Until that time, that function would continue to be exercised by the TAG.
To ensure a uniform best practice approach, the opportunity was also taken to extend CER’s safety remit to all upstream, or unprocessed, gas and oil undertakings, rather than conferring responsibility merely in respect of the Corrib project.
The Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 conferred responsibility on CER for the safety of downstream, or processed gas activity. This was done in the context of market liberalisation, and upstream gas was not covered by the provisions of the 2006 Act.
The 2010 legislation extended CER’s responsibility to the safety of upstream oil and gas. It conferred the safety regulation function with respect to designated petroleum activities on the CER. The pre-existing statutory obligations which would otherwise apply to petroleum undertakings were unaffected by this new part.
The 2010 Act provides for the designation by the CER of the specific petroleum activities to be regulated. It also sets out the criteria to be considered in determining such designation including , the nature of the activity, the type of infrastructure associated with such activity, an assessment of the potential risks of engaging in such activity, the safety measures required to reduce the risks and the extent to which it is regulated by other existing legislation.
It provided for mandatory consultation in the public interest with specified bodies prior to the designation of any such activities. Such bodies include inter alia the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority.
The Act prohibits the carrying on of designated petroleum activities without a safety permit to be issued by the CER and creates an offence for contravention of this requirement. It is a condition of every petroleum authorisation issued by the Minister that that person holds a safety permit with respect to any designated activity.
The objective of the Commission relating to petroleum safety is to foster and encourage safety with regard to the carrying on of petroleum activities. This provision relates to both the physical safety of the public as well as to the wider public interest of having a safe petroleum and extraction industry.
The Act sets out the functions of the CER with respect to its regulatory role. These include:—
- to establish and implement a petroleum safety framework with respect to designated petroleum activities;
- to investigate and report to the Minister on petroleum incidents;
- to monitor and enforce compliance by petroleum undertakings with obligations placed on them by this Act, and
- to issue safety
The matters to be considered by the CER in carrying out its functions include, similar functions performed by other bodies with respect to safety and the need to co-operate and consult with specified persons.
There is mandatory consultation with the Minister and other specified bodies with respect to the content and operation of the safety framework. It also describes the type of information the safety framework will contain including inter alia:—
- the nature and scope of the petroleum activities and associated infrastructure to be regulated by the CER;
- the systems and procedures to be operated by the CER;
- the type of information to be included in the framework including a list of designated petroleum activities and associated infrastructure;
- the procedures for assessment by the CER of safety case applications, and
- a system for ongoing audits and inspections by the CER with respect to designated petroleum activities and associated
There are criteria to be considered by the CER in deciding what other matters it may consider necessary to set out in the safety framework including, inter alia, technological developments, industry best practice, reviews of safety codes and standards, directions of the Minister, or submissions or recommendations made by interested parties.
The CER is required to report annually to the Minister with respect to the functioning of the Safety Framework. It also has the power to amend or review the safety framework from time to time, and is required to publish the framework/amended framework in the manner prescribed in the Act.
There are circumstances in which the Minister may give written directions to the CER with respect to its functions i.e.:—
- where the safety framework has not been published within 8 months of the coming into operation of the legislation;
- the measures to be taken arising from reports with respect to major accidents;
- the review or amendment of the safety framework where the Minister considers it in the public interest for the framework to be reviewed or amended.
There are general duties of petroleum undertakings, which are, inter alia, to ensure that risk is as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP):—
- that any risk to safety associated with the carrying on of any petroleum activity is ALARP; and
- that any risk with respect to any associated infrastructure is constructed, maintained, operated and decommissioned in line with the ALARP standard;
and with respect to infrastructure that:—
- the construction and installation is sound and fit for purpose, that any modification or maintenance maintains this standard and that safe operating limits are established;
- standards of safety and training are compatible with the ALARP standard;
- operating procedures maintain the ALARP standard;
- adequate plans are in place for measures to be taken in the case of emergency or in the case of serious or imminent danger; and
- they report accidents and dangerous
There is a requirement for the CER to draw up and implement safety case guidelines applicable to all or any individual designated petroleum activity. The CER is required to consult with specified bodies including, inter alia, the National Standards Association of Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority with regard to the content of such guidelines. This section also sets out what the guidelines will contain including, inter alia:—
- the appropriate technical principle relating to the design of petroleum infrastructure as well as technical codes and standards to be achieved and maintained; and
- the procedures to be followed by an undertaking applying for a safety case.
The CER is required to publish the guidelines in the manner prescribed in the Act. It may revise or withdraw such guidelines and prepare new guidelines which are also required to be published in the manner prescribed in the Act.
Anybody proposing to engage in a designated petroleum activity must prepare a safety case describing the components of their safety management system for submission to the CER for its approval within 6 months of their intended date for commencing such an activity. Anybody already engaging in an activity that becomes a designated activity when the necessity for a safety case becomes law, is required to submit a safety case for such designated activities within 12 of the publication of the safety case guidelines.
The Act prohibits the commencement or continuation of designated petroleum activities without having complied with the requirements above or without having a safety case prepared in accordance with the safety case guidelines approved by the CER and having been issued with a safety permit.
A safety case will be required to contain sufficient information to demonstrate to the CER that:—
- the petroleum undertaking is complying with its obligations under this Act;
- it is able to properly assess and control the risk which could potentially arise in connection with its carrying on of a designated petroleum activity;
- having assessed the potential risks, has taken sufficient measures to ensure that its safety management system is capable of complying with the ALARP standard;
- all major accident risks have been evaluated and emergency measures put in place in the event of such an accident arising; and adequate arrangements for monitoring, auditing and reporting on safety performance and compliance have been
There is provision for review and revision of safety cases to be approved by the CER. It sets out the maximum period for undertaking a review (5 years), and the circumstances when such a review might otherwise take place e.g. to maintain pace with new technical knowledge about safety matters or in circumstances when a petroleum undertaking might decide it is appropriate. The procedures relating to such circumstances are described.
A petroleum undertaking is to carry out designated petroleum activities in conformance with its approved safety case. The Act sets out how and under what circumstances the CER shall approve a safety case application. It also outlines conditions the CER may attach to safety permits including:—
- restricting or prohibiting the operation of specified parts of petroleum infrastructure in connection with the carrying on of the designated petroleum activity to which the permit relates;
- restricting or prohibiting the carrying on of certain activities carried on from or in connection with petroleum infrastructure;
- specifying requirements to be complied with with respect to all or any of the different phases of the designated petroleum activity;
- when a safety permit shall be reviewed;
- auditing and reporting
There are timeframes for assessment by the CER of safety cases and the duration of safety permits.
There are provisions for refusal or revocation of a safety permit by the CER and sets out the circumstances when each might occur i.e. refusal might occur if the CER were not satisfied that the undertaking has complied with the above. Revocation might occur for example if the CER determined that the undertaking was not complying with the conditions of the safety permit, or failed to comply with an improvement notice issued to by the CER. This Section also provides an appeal mechanism to the High Court in respect of such decisions by the CER.
There are fees relating to consideration by the Commission of a safety case submitted , a revised safety case submitted or where a petroleum undertaking notifies the Commission of a revised safety case. The level of fees will be structured to ensure that the fee relating to the safety case or revised safety case is sufficient to enable the Commission recover the costs and expenses incurred by reason of its consideration of the safety/revised safety case.
Where a petroleum incident occurs, the petroleum undertaking concerned is obligated to notify the Commission as soon as practicable after the occurrence of the petroleum incident. There are actions which the Commission may take following a petroleum incident, to include the issuance of an Improvement Notice, a Prohibition Notice, a notice requiring the undertaking to revise its safety case or a notice that the Commission intends to revoke the relevant safety notice.
There are reporting requirements by the Commission to the Minister in respect of a petroleum incident, such incidents include loss of life, personal injury, damage to property, the ownership of which is held by a person other than the petroleum undertaking concerned. The Commission may report to the Minister a petroleum incident other than those referred to above, where it is appropriate to do so by reason of the seriousness of the petroleum incident concerned.
The Commission may make regulations prescribing a class of event or occurrence for the purpose of defining a petroleum incident and to prescribe a form to be used by a petroleum undertaking in notifying the Commission of a petroleum incident. It has the power to appoint a Petroleum Officer(s) for the purposes of the exercise of the functions conferred on it by this Act. This section establishes the procedure for the appointment of such Petroleum Officers and sets out the powers of such an officer(s) in the discharge of their duties.
Where a petroleum officer, in the course of his/her duty considers that the continued engagement by a petroleum undertaking in a petroleum activity poses such a substantial and imminent risk that it should cease, the petroleum officer may seek an emergency direction from the Commission requiring the restriction or prohibition of the activity in question. Failure to comply with such a direction by the CER could lead to an ex parte application by the Commission to the High Court for an order to so restrict or prohibit the activity.
The CER has power
- to require an Improvement Plan to be drawn up by a petroleum undertaking in certain circumstances including where it considers that the undertaking is not complying with its approved safety case;
- to issue an Improvement Notice in certain circumstances, including where the undertaking has failed to submit an Improvement Plan or where the CER is not satisfied that an Improvement Plan adequately addresses the issues of concern;
- to issue a Prohibition Notice where the CER considers that an activity being carried out/proposed to be carried out involves a substantial risk to safety.
The Act also make provision for appeals against such decisions by the CER.
There are circumstances in which an application can be made by the CER to the High Court for the immediate suspension of petroleum activities. Such circumstances include where the CER considers that the risk to safety is so serious that any of the petroleum activities of a petroleum undertaking should be restricted or immediately prohibited until specified measures have been put in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.
Paragraphs 16, 17, 20 and 25 of the First Schedule to the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, are amended to make provision for:
- the Commission to levy petroleum undertakings with respect to costs properly incurred by the Commission in discharging its functions under this Act;
- the appropriate use of any excess revenue generated by the CER in a particular year; and
- the separation of accounts.
The Petroleum Exploration and Extraction Safety Amendment Act 2015 amends 2010 act on safety of offshore oil and gas operation. It follow some EU directive providing for institutional separation of regulatory functions relating to offshore safety and environment and the economic development of offshore resources including licensing and revenue management
- Goals setting approach in major accident prevention through risk assessment and reliable management information systems
- Clarity on environmental liability in the event of major accidents
- Emergency preparedness and response arrangements
The 2010 act introduced new system of safety regulation of petroleum exploration and extraction activities. The commission for energy regulation was given responsibility for the regulation and safety aspects of the upstream petroleum industry. It was granted responsibility for the safety regulation of petroleum undertakings. They govern the matter through their petroleum safety framework.
The 2010 act required CER to implement a risk based petroleum safety framework to regulate the safety of petroleum activities carried on by the holders of petroleum authorizations.
If the permitting regime requires that designate petroleum activities require approval by the submission of a safety case in advance on a risk base. A risk based approach taken where licenses are required to reduce all safety risks to a level that it is as low as reasonably practicable.
The 2013 Act requires the establishment of separate national authority, provision for assessment of potential major environmental hazards and clarity on industry liability in relation to carry on offshore petroleum activities in the event of major accidents and specific obligations to be placed on operators and owners of petroleum infrastructure.
The CER is established as the independent competent authority under the 2013 directive. Formerly established new provision is made integrating the authority’s functions and with the existing petroleum safety functions further after review of the carb gas project.
The commission has power to direct industry to conduct emergency exercise and tests and to take or direct industry to take adequate measures to ensure continuing safety of designated petroleum activities.
The legislation updates and consolidates the obligations of petroleum undertakers, operators who are appointed by the licensee to carryout oil and gas operations and the owner, the operational control of the non-production installation.
- appointment of an operator prior to carrying out any designated activity,
- financial liability for prevention and remediation of environmental damage caused by offshore petroleum activities carried out pursuant to the authorization.
Operators are obliged to ensure that the risk of major accident hazards carrying out the activity is reduced to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable.
The contents of a safety case guideline published by the Commission must be consistent with the information requirements of the directive. Operators and owners must submit and prepare safety cases in accordance with the guidelines published by the commission.
The safety cases submitted to the Commission for its acceptance, operators and owners must conform with the accepted safety case.
There is provision for submission assessments and acceptance of design notifications and combined operations notifications by operators to the commission.
The Commission determines the form, duration and conditions of a safety permit assessment to issue the permit is to include the capacity of the operator or owner to carry out the activities, their obligations, their safety and environmental management system derived in the safety case.
The powers of the Commission are extended to issue directions requiring submission of an improvement plan or serving of an improvement notice on petroleum undertakings so as to apply to operators and owners where the operator or owner is not operating in accordance with unaccepted safety case conditions of a safety permit or legislative requirement. The operator must provide a mechanism by which the copy of the accepted safety case can be made available to the public.
The 1960 Act as amended require assessment by the Minister of the technical and financial capability of the applicants for an offshore petroleum authorization in accordance with the criteria and the directive. The assessment of financial capability of applicants for an authorization includes consideration of the risk profile of the area, the stage of operations, the financial ability of the applicant to meet the cost of the activity, cost of immediate launch and continuation of all measures for effective emergency response and subsequent remediation in the event of a major accident have appropriate financial arrangements to cover potential liability. The minister may approve the appointment of an operator proposed by the undertaking.