Enable Javascript in your browser for an improved experience of regjeringen.no

Meld. St. 37 (2012-2013)

Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the North Sea and Skagerrak (Management Plan) — Meld. St. 37 (2012–2013) Report to the Storting (white paper)

To table of content

6 Acute pollution: risk and preparedness and response

Risk is expressed as a combination of the probability of an event occurring as a result of human activity and the consequences of that event, taking uncertainties into account. Risk is not static, but changes over time depending on the activities in an area and factors such as the implementation of measures, training, introduction of new technology and updating of legislation.

Environmental risk expresses the probability of a spill of oil or other environmentally hazardous substances combined with the scale of the expected environmental damage, taking uncertainties into account.

The level of environmental risk can be assessed by considering the probability of a spill, its influence area, the presence and vulnerability of valuable species, habitats, and so on, and whether a spill would have consequences for these. In addition to the probability of a spill occurring, other factors that influence the level of environmental risk are spill size and duration, and the geographical position of a spill in relation to vulnerable areas and resources. Environmental risk often fluctuates during the year, since many species move from one area to another or have an annual cycle during which their vulnerability varies. The probability of an accident may be much the same in two different areas if activity patterns are similar. On the other hand, the level of environmental risk may be very different in the two areas if natural conditions are different. The effectiveness of preventive measures and of preparedness and response to acute pollution are also important factors.

Assessments of environmental consequences are based on knowledge of the species, habitats and ecological goods and services in the management plan area. During the preparation of the management plan, 12 particularly valuable and vulnerable areas were identified in the North Sea and Skagerrak (see Chapter 3.4). The vulnerability of these areas to oil spills is shown in Table 6.1.

Most petroleum activity in the North Sea takes place far from the coast, so that the probability of oil reaching several of the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas closest to the coast after a spill is low. The coastline is generally vulnerable to landfall of oil from shipping and petroleum activities.

Table 6.1 Particularly valuable and vulnerable areas and species and habitat types that are vulnerable to acute pollution

Particularly valuable and vulnerable area

Why area is classified as valuable

Vulnerability to oil spills

1. Bremanger–Ytre Sula

Breeding, feeding, moulting, passage and wintering area for seabirds; common seal whelping area


2. Korsfjorden

Representative of islands and skerries off Western Norway: wide variation in habitat types, landscapes, geology, history; kelp forests, birds

Less vulnerable than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

3. Karmøyfeltet bank area

High biological production; spawning grounds for Norwegian spring-spawning herring

Vulnerable, but less so than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

4. Boknafjorden/Jærstrendene protected landscape

Breeding, feeding, moulting, passage and wintering area for seabirds; whelping ground for seals


5. Listastrendene protected landscape

Wide variety of landscape and habitat types; passage and wintering area for seabirds


6. Siragrunnen bank area

Spawning grounds for Norwegian spring-spawning herring and retention areas for eggs and larvae; feeding area for birds

Vulnerable, but less so than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

7. Skagerrak transect

Representative of the Skagerrak. Variety of habitats and landscapes; geologically and historically important; important for kelp and birds

Less vulnerable than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

8. Outer Oslofjord

Breeding, passage and wintering area for seabirds; world’s largest known inshore cold-water coral reef


9. Skagerrak

Moulting and wintering area for seabirds


10. Sandeel habitat north (Viking Bank)

Habitat and spawning grounds for sandeels and feeding area for whales

Vulnerable, but less so than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

11. Sandeel habitat south

Habitat and spawning grounds for sandeels and feeding area for whales

Vulnerable, but less so than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

12. Mackerel spawning grounds

Spawning grounds for mackerel

Vulnerable, but less so than areas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9

6.1 Shipping

6.1.1 Probability of accidents that could result in acute pollution

There is a larger volume of shipping in the North Sea and Skagerrak than in other Norwegian sea areas, and it is more complex, see Chapter 4.2. Maritime transport projections indicate an increase in distance sailed of 11 % in the North Sea and Skagerrak as a whole from 2009 to 2030. The volume of transport from the Baltic Sea through the Skagerrak is also expected to increase.

Maritime accidents, including groundings, collisions, structural failure and fire or explosion, occur at irregular intervals, and can result in acute pollution. Groundings account for half of all maritime accidents in the North Sea and Skagerrak. In 2011, the Maritime Directorate registered a total of 113 groundings, 21 of which resulted in spills of various sizes. In recent years, three groundings have resulted in significant oil spills in the North Sea and Skagerrak: MS Server (2007, about 530 tonnes of oil), MV Full City (2009, about 293 tonnes of oil) and MS Godafoss (2011, about 112 tonnes of oil). All of these were near-shore accidents that resulted in spills of heavy bunker oil, and the response was organised using governmental resources and headed by the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

An analysis has been made of the probability of acute pollution from shipping in the management plan area. This shows a higher frequency of spills near the coast, with the highest frequency along the coast of Western Norway, roughly between Stavanger and the Sognefjorden. Spills of bunker oil of up to 400 tonnes dominate the picture. On the basis of the situation in 2009, an average of about three incidents a year must be expected to result in oil spills in the management plan area.

New activities or changes in the level of activity will generally change the risk level and nature of the risks. Unless preventive measures are taken, the frequency of incidents and accidents will be related to the level of activity (total distance sailed).

For 2030, the probability of spills was estimated both with and without the maritime safety measures that have been implemented in the last few years – traffic separation schemes, traffic surveillance and control, and emergency tugboat services. Without these measures, the analysis indicates that the frequency of spills would rise to about four per year as a result of the growing volume of traffic. When preventive measures are included, the analysis indicates that spill frequency will be reduced to about 2.5 per year.

Thus, emergency tugboat services, traffic surveillance and control, and traffic separation schemes are effective measures that substantially reduce the probability of acute pollution from shipping along the mainland coast. With these measures in place, the proportion of groundings that result in spills is expected to be 81 % lower than it would be without them.

6.1.2 Preventive measures

Preventive measures are very important for avoiding loss of human life and material assets, and for protecting society and the environment from pollution. Key maritime safety measures include standards for vessel construction, equipment and operation; crew qualifications; control of vessels; traffic regulation; and maritime infrastructure and services.

A number of steps have been taken to improve maritime safety in recent years. From 1 June 2011, new traffic separation schemes and recommended routes were introduced off Western and Southern Norway after approval by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Similar routeing measures have already been introduced between Vardø and Røst, and there is now a continuous system along the whole Norwegian coast. The routeing measures in the North Sea and Skagerrak consist of eight traffic separation schemes and seven recommended routes. They apply to all oil and chemical tankers carrying harmful liquid substances in bulk and to other vessels of gross tonnage 5000 or more that are in transit along the Norwegian coast or in international traffic to or from a Norwegian port.

The routeing measures reinforce the effects of other maritime safety and oil spill preparedness and response measures. Moving traffic further out from the coast ensures that there is more time to deal with a drifting ship or an oil spill that is heading towards land. There is more time to alert response personnel and others, and more opportunity to deploy tugboats and or oil spill response equipment.

Figure 6.1 Traffic patterns before (left) and after (right) the introduction of the traffic separation schemes

Figure 6.1 Traffic patterns before (left) and after (right) the introduction of the traffic separation schemes

Source Norwegian Coastal Administration

The emergency tugboat services in Norway are in principle based on the availability of private actors. However, in North Norway there is also a government emergency tugboat service that uses three hired tugboats. In 2010, this system was extended to Southern Norway, where one vessel operates along the stretch of coastline between Risør and Egersund on a state contract. In 2011, the system was further strengthened by one vessel in Western Norway, which operates between Fedje and Kristiansund. This model is being continued in 2013. The tugboats can be deployed rapidly to assist ships that are drifting out of control and prevent grounding and the risk of acute pollution. If necessary, they can also tow ships to a port or port of refuge where they can receive further assistance.

A process has now been started to establish a long-term model for a national emergency tugboat service along the whole Norwegian coast.

Monitoring of maritime traffic in Norwegian waters has also been strengthened. The Vardø VTS Centre was established in 2007. It monitors all tankers and other high-risk traffic along the entire Norwegian coast, and also monitors compliance with the rules for the traffic separation schemes and recommended routes off the coast. If a vessel deviates from the system or from normal sailing patterns, the VTS Centre calls up the vessel, guides it onto the right route, and if necessary summons assistance from the government emergency tugboat services or others. In addition, the Horten, Kvitsøy and Fedje VTS Centres monitor shipping in the parts of the management plan area where is heaviest and the risk of accidents is highest. New satellite-based systems and other developments are providing a better overview of maritime traffic, and a new surveillance aircraft is being used to identify and monitor oil spills.

6.1.3 Consequence assessment: acute pollution from shipping

Experience of spills

Immediately after the oil spills from MS Server (2007), MV Full City (2009) and MS Godafoss (2011), all of which occurred close to the coastline within the management plan area, environmental studies were started to gain an overview of environmental damage and consequences, and document the effects of the steps taken to limit the damage. These showed that the consequences were greatest for species and habitats associated with the water surface, the upper part of the water column and the shore zone. In these three cases, the consequences were more severe for seabirds than for other ecosystem components, but not so severe that they threatened populations of these species in the affected areas. The estimates of the numbers of seabirds killed are considered to be uncertain. The effects on fish and shellfish were minor in all three cases. Large-scale shoreline-cleaning operations were initiated, and these had a direct effect on the scale of the damage and on the recovery period in the shore zone. Studies show that the flora and fauna in the shore zone had recovered well after two years. The general conclusion was that no significant long-term effects or consequences at population level were documented for the species affected by these oil spills, and the results indicate that the species and habitats in the areas affected largely recovered within only a few years. However, the three spills were all of moderate size, and the consequences of a large spill could be more serious.

Figure 6.2 MS Godafoss aground off Frederikstad, in Ytre Hvaler national park.

Figure 6.2 MS Godafoss aground off Frederikstad, in Ytre Hvaler national park.

Source Photo: Copyright Norwegian Coastal Administration

Simulated spills from maritime accidents and potential environmental consequences

As part of the scientific basis for the management plan for the North Sea and Skagerrak, three maritime accident scenarios were chosen and simulations of the resulting oil spills were run. The simulated spills are considerably larger than those that have actually occurred in the management plan area, and the effects of measures to reduce the spread of oil and its adverse impacts (preparedness and response measures) were not taken into account in the simulations. Large-scale spills were chosen for the scenarios both because the possibility of such incidents cannot be excluded and because it is important to form a picture of the potential consequences of major spills. The simulated incidents were chosen on the basis of two criteria: knowledge of where and when oil spills are likely to occur, and knowledge of where there are vulnerable species and habitats. The selected incidents give an idea of the kind of spills that could occur, but the size of the spills is not representative of incidents that are likely to occur in the management plan area.

Figure 6.3 Geographical location of the three simulated incidents

Figure 6.3 Geographical location of the three simulated incidents

Source Norwegian Coastal Administration

The sites for the three simulated incidents were Lista (10 January), Fedjeosen (25 May) and Vågsøy (11 March), and they involved spills of 2 700 tonnes bunker oil and 100 m3 marine diesel, 27 000 tonnes crude oil and 500 m3 bunker oil, and 120 000 tonnes crude oil respectively. The Vågsøy accident is a worst-case scenario, with a very large spill of long duration. Even accidents involving large oil tankers very rarely result in spills of this order of magnitude. Such large-scale spills are very rare, and there has never been an oil spill of anything like this size in Norway. The size of the simulated spill is also much larger than that used by the Norwegian Coastal Administration in designing the capability of the governmental oil spill response system.

The simulations show that the Vågsøy scenario would result in the surface spread of oil over a large area both north and south of the discharge point, and in landfall of oil as far north as Sør-Trøndelag. A spill on this scale in spring could have impacts on herring larvae, which drift with the coastal current at this time of year. It could also affect a large proportion of the overall breeding populations of pelagic diving and surface-feeding birds in the North Sea and Skagerrak, and more local populations of coastal diving and surface-feeding birds. It could have serious consequences for all these ecological groups.

The consequences of spills modelled off Lista and Fedjeosen could be serious for local seabird populations, but are not expected to be serious for overall breeding populations of seabirds in the management plan area. The simulations also indicated that the spills are not expected to have any noticeable consequences for fish/fish larvae or marine mammals.

6.1.4 Environmental risk assessment of maritime transport

The environmental risk to ecosystem components such as seabirds, marine mammals, fish and coastal waters/the shore zone is assessed on the basis of the probability that an oil spill will occur and that it will affect vulnerable ecosystem components. The concentration of vulnerable species and habitats varies from one part of the coast to another, resulting in variations in vulnerability, but as a general rule vulnerability is considered to be highest in spring and summer. The pattern of risk can be partly explained by looking at the probability of spills and their potential size, and partly by the distribution of vulnerable resources and the consequences a particular type of spill is expected to have.

A report from the Norwegian Coastal Administration presents calculations of the environmental risk associated with acute oil pollution from shipping along the coast of mainland Norway in 2008 and projections for 2025. The report shows that for seabirds, shoreline habitats and fish, the calculated level of environmental risk is higher in the North Sea and Skagerrak than in other Norwegian sea areas. The potential consequences are generally more serious in northern waters. However, maritime traffic is much heavier further south, which means that the probability of spills is higher, and the calculated environmental risk is also higher. In the coastal waters of the Skagerrak, Swedish and Danish shipping also makes a substantial contribution to the risk level. Moreover, there is heavy tanker traffic along the Danish coast, and calculations of drift trajectories show a substantial probability that a spill here could reach Norwegian coastal waters. However, because of the long drift time, the oil would have time to weather, and this would reduce any environmental consequences in Norwegian waters and along the shoreline.

Experience of actual spills from ships shows that species and habitats associated with the sea surface, the upper part of the water column and the shore zone are most seriously affected. Seabirds are particularly vulnerable, but in cases where spills have actually occurred, the consequences for seabirds have nevertheless been assessed as minor. The simulations that have been run show that very large spills could have serious consequences for seabirds and in the worst case also affect fish eggs and larvae. However, such spills are extremely unlikely to occur.

Particularly valuable and vulnerable areas

The whole management plan area is open to shipping, including the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas, many of which lie near the coastline. The calculated frequency of spills from shipping is higher in near-coastal areas, but fairly evenly distributed along the coast. Thus, the probability of a spill will be highest, and the potential environmental consequences of a spill most serious, in the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas near the coast. The probability of a spill has been assessed as highest in the following particularly valuable and vulnerable areas: Outer Oslofjord, Boknafjorden/Jærstrendene protected landscape, Karmøyfeltet bank area and Bremanger–Ytre Sula. The potential environmental consequences will depend on the size and type of spill, and when and where it occurs, since the distribution and presence of different ecosystem components and their vulnerability to oil varies from one time of year to another. The environmental consequences of oil spills are often greatest for seabirds. Preventive measures such as emergency tugboat services, routeing measures including traffic separation schemes, and VTS centres help to reduce the probability of spills along the whole Norwegian coast. Oil spill preparedness and response measures reduce the environmental consequences when a spill has occurred.

6.2 Petroleum activities

6.2.1 Risk of accidents that could result in acute pollution

Petroleum activity is higher in the North Sea than in other parts of the Norwegian continental shelf. However, collation of data on acute pollution incidents involving the petroleum industry on the Norwegian continental shelf with various activity indicators shows that there is no direct linear relationship between activity level and the number or size of spills. The influence of activity level on the level of risk should therefore not be overestimated.

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway runs a project to survey trends in the risk of acute discharges from petroleum operations. The annual reports provide information on trends in risk level for the Norwegian continental shelf as a whole and for each sea area separately. They show that both the number of crude oil spills from petroleum activities and the number of near misses that could have led to spills on the Norwegian continental shelf have been greatly reduced in the period 2001–11.

In the North Sea there has been a marked reduction in the number of crude oil spills per year and per installation-year for the period 2001–11 as a whole, see Figure 6.4. The quantities of oil released to the sea as a result of these incidents vary widely. A few large spills account for most of the volume of oil in oil spills over the period. Most spills are small, less than 10 tonnes, while the two largest were 3 700 tonnes (Statfjord A, 2007) and 80 tonnes (Statfjord C, 2009).

Figure 6.4 Number of crude oil spills in the North Sea in the period 2001–11, total and per installation-year.

Figure 6.4 Number of crude oil spills in the North Sea in the period 2001–11, total and per installation-year.

Source Petroleum Safety Authority Norway

The number of near misses (incidents that could have led to oil spills), and the severity of the spills that could have resulted from them, have also been declining in the North Sea in the latter part of the same period. The effectiveness of barriers intended to prevent near misses from developing into major accidents is considered to be stable and high for the Norwegian shelf as a whole. Historical data on spills must be considered in conjunction with other relevant information on safety performance before it is possible to draw any conclusions on the risk of accidents in connection with petroleum activities in the North Sea and Skagerrak.

Many factors acting alone or in combination determine whether an oil spill occurs and how much oil is released. These factors are constantly changing.

In the period up to 2030, the accident risk is considered to be more closely related to the continuation of existing petroleum activities than to any future field developments. However, new elements and changes in the pattern of petroleum activities may alter the nature and level of risk. For example, there are fixed installations on many of the existing North Sea fields, whereas much greater use is being made of subsea installations with pipelines to existing installations in new field developments. In future there may be further changes, for instance greater use of unmanned solutions and subsea installations that include processing and separation systems.

The surveys of trends in risk level (both the general surveys and surveys of the risk of acute discharges) should be continued in order to provide a better overview of the situation and to put the industry in a better position to take action in the event of a negative trend.

Textbox 6.1 Key risk factors

Table 6.2 Key factors influencing the risk of oil spills from petroleum operations: status and changes in the period 2001–10

Key factors

Status and changes 2001–10

Factors specific to particular areas, for example weather conditions, reservoir conditions, water depth, danger of slides or earthquakes, shipping

Weather conditions in the North Sea are well documented.

Reservoir conditions in the North Sea are well documented.

On some fields, new installations have been planned and approved that take into account the possibility of seabed subsidence.

The North Sea is considered to be a far more complex shipping area than other parts of the Norwegian continental shelf (the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea–Lofoten area). Most of the North Sea and Skagerrak is not specifically regulated, for example for petroleum activities, and is heavily used by shipping. The VTS centres now monitor a number of oil and gas fields to reduce the risk of collisions.

There is a trend towards the use of larger supply vessels with a bulbous bow.

Factors specific to particular activities, for example installation type, technical solution, maintenance, activity level, and the operations carried out on a specific installation, the actors involved, how the activities are organised

A number of the fields and installations in the North Sea are ageing.

A focus on well integrity is needed for both old and new wells.

Several new methods of operation are being used for existing fields and installations.

A great deal of modification has been carried out on existing fields and installations to enhance oil recovery and link up installations to new small fields nearby.

Acute discharges in connection with injection of drill cuttings have increased considerably.

Factors that affect the industry as a whole, for example economic fluctuations, the legislative and other framework determined by the authorities, the actors involved, activity level in the industry

The activity level on the Norwegian shelf has been high, and there have been major changes in the actors involved and substantial economic fluctuations. These factors may influence capacity, expertise and priorities, and could have a negative influence on risk trends.

Table 6.3 Key factors that influence the risk of oil spills in connection with petroleum activities: projected changes up to 2030

Key factors

Projected changes up to 2030

Factors specific to particular areas, for example weather conditions, reservoir conditions, water depth, bottom conditions, danger of slides or earthquakes, shipping

A certain rise in temperature and precipitation is expected, which may result in somewhat more frequent and more severe extreme weather events.

Reservoir pressure is expected to drop during production from a field. The discovery of new fields with higher reservoir pressure or different reservoir characteristics or sizes is not considered to be particularly likely. However, problems associated with sand and water production may increase on mature fields.

Seabed subsidence is expected to continue to be a relevant risk factor, especially in the southern part of the North Sea.

Shipping volumes are expected to increase.

The trend towards larger supply vessels equipped with a bulbous bow is expected to continue.

Maritime safety measures (monitoring, regulation of traffic) can compensate for the negative effects of growing shipping volumes.

Factors specific to particular activities, for example installation type, technical solution, maintenance, activity level, and the operations carried out on a specific installation, the actors involved, how the activities are organised

Knowledge gained during continued activities in the area and implementation of the integrated ecosystem-based management plan are expected to reduce uncertainty regarding activity-specific factors and increase the industry’s expertise in accident prevention.

There will be more ageing fields and installations. It is expected that some of the existing fields will be shut down and installations decommissioned, while the life of other fields and installations will be extended. Some fields that have been shut down may be re-opened.

Increasing use of new methods of operation is expected on both existing and new installations.

It is expected that a number of smaller fields will be developed using subsea solutions and linked to existing infrastructure. More use of standardised fast-track solutions is also expected.

More use of new concepts using smaller and simpler types of installations is also expected.

Problems related to the maintenance of ageing installations are expected to increase.

Changes are expected in the way activities are organised, for example in connection with new methods of operation, major fusions, early-retirement incentives or the introduction of a system of rotating maintenance teams on installations.

Factors that affect the industry as a whole, for example economic fluctuations, the legislative and other framework determined by the authorities, the actors involved, activity level in the industry

The high level of activity on the Norwegian shelf is expected to continue in the years ahead. This means that limited capacity and expertise will continue to be relevant risk factors.

Continued changes in the actors involved and further economic fluctuations can be expected. Knowledge development concerning factors that affect the industry as a whole should reduce uncertainty in managing these factors.

The legislative and other framework for the industry is expected to be further developed and implemented as technology and know-how are developed and the authorities acquire more expertise on integrated, ecosystem-based risk management across sectors.

It is uncertain whether changes in the framework set by the authorities will be pushed through by international actors in response to the Deepwater Horizon accident, and what influence this will have on risk management by the industry.

6.2.2 Preventive measures

The objective is to maintain a low risk level and make continuous efforts to reduce it. The risk level in the North Sea is influenced by the large number of installations in operation and the fact that some of them are ageing and have reached the end of their original design life. Nevertheless, the risk of accidents is not considered to be particularly high in the North Sea.

Key preventive (risk reduction) measures in the petroleum industry are:

  • assigning clear responsibilities to operators and licensees, together with responsibility for ensuring that any subcontractors also comply with the rules;

  • a properly functioning health, safety and environment (HSE) system that takes into account the risks associated with specific activities;

  • a risk-based inspection and enforcement system, based among other things on annual risk reports;

  • properly functioning tripartite cooperation on safety and legislative developments;

  • the requirement to make continual efforts to improve safety.

The risk-based HSE legislation is an essential framework for the industry’s efforts to prevent accidents. The rules require companies to make a thorough review of all relevant risks and ensure that the number and type of barriers are adapted to the risks associated with each activity. The legislation also requires health, safety and environmental risks to be considered both separately and together. This ensures that systems for preventing acute pollution and the oil pollution emergency response system are adapted to the characteristics and location of an activity. Under the regulations, characteristic features of different parts of the management plan area also have to be taken into account in risk management, for example stricter requirements can be imposed in vulnerable areas. Strict regulation and an effective inspection and enforcement system for petroleum activities are important in preventing oil spills and minimising their impact.

The HSE legislation does not generally specify particular solutions, but sets out functional requirements, leaving each actor responsible for developing or using solutions that ensure satisfactory safety levels. The overall goal is to employ solutions to meet the functional requirements that are adapted to the specific risks in each case. A key principle for the oil and gas industry is that it must not be possible for one isolated fault or error to result in an accident. This means that more than one barrier must be used to reduce the probability of escalation as a result of an error, hazard or accident, and to limit the damage and nuisance that may result from such situations.

Risk management is necessary at all stages, from planning to decommissioning, and requires actors to analyse their own activities in detail and to update the analyses if the assumptions on which they are based change. The legislation reflects experience gained from petroleum industry accidents in Norway and abroad, so that it constitutes a sound basis for responsible operations. A white paper on working life in Norway includes an account of the HSE situation in the petroleum sector (Meld. St. 29 (2010–2011) Felles ansvar for eit godt og anstendig arbeidsliv).

Some key measures have been identified that will reduce the level of risk further.

Measures to be carried out by companies:

  • Development of an integrated approach to accident risk, including better identification and management of conflicts between goals relating to the environment, safety, working environment and value creation.

  • Close cooperation between actors in the petroleum industry, for example joint industry projects and standardisation.

Measures to be carried out under the auspices of the authorities:

  • Further development of the framework for petroleum activities, including legislation, allocation criteria when new areas are opened and conditions in production licences based on an HSE approach.

  • Continued improvement of the surveys and monitoring of trends in the risk of acute discharges from petroleum activities.

  • Promotion of the development of technology and expertise to improve integration of HSE considerations and the evaluation and communication of accident prevention methods.

Textbox 6.2 Follow-up of the Deepwater Horizon accident

After the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, various projects have been started to develop more effective ways of halting or diverting a wellstream as quickly as possible in the event of a blowout. R&D activities have also been started or carried out on improving understanding of risk, better adaptation of technology to a number of factors that influence risk level, planning and monitoring of operations, earlier detection of operational deviations, more rapid and effective intervention, better access to essential information, and so on. Moreover, R&D has reduced the level of uncertainty for a number of factors that influence risk level. There has also been a focus on developing technology for drilling and well control, process technology, sensors, materials, and information and communication solutions to deal with safety challenges associated with different phases, reservoirs and areas.

Principles and measures include the following:

  • Updating of drilling standards to incorporate lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon accident and further improvements in drilling operations on the Norwegian continental shelf.

  • An important and well-established principle for drilling on the Norwegian shelf is that there must always be two independent, tested well barriers, and that these must be monitored.

  • Improvements in drilling technology and real-time monitoring of well barriers, which reduce the risk of spills.

  • Use of new technology to make vertical seismic profile (VSP) surveys, which provide better information from below the drill bit.

  • Assessment of internal verification processes and well management systems.

  • Establishment of plans for well plugging and halting a blowout.

  • Making sure that the right kind of expertise is available in each case.

  • Development of new capping stack technology that can halt a blowout much more rapidly than has been possible until now. Since March 2013, the first capping stack has been available in Norway, one of only four systems in the world using the new technology. It will be based in Bodø.

However, reports, analyses and the follow-up and reviews by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident show that improvements and further developments are still needed in a number of areas. These include risk management processes, risk communication, management of change, maintenance, competence, capacity, safety management and learning from accidents. There is also a need to improve technology and operating conditions relating to loading of oil, the detection of leaks in subsea facilities, slip joints, flexible risers and injection of drill cuttings. In addition, there is a need for improvements in the overall management of well barriers, well barrier monitoring and well integrity in temporarily abandoned wells.

6.2.3 Consequence assessment and environmental risk assessment: spills in selected oil-producing areas of the North Sea

A spill can in principle originate from any petroleum installation in the management plan area that is in contact with hydrocarbon-bearing formations, and that stores or transports hydrocarbons or large quantities of chemicals. There is widespread drilling activity in the North Sea and a large number of fields on stream in different phases of their production lifetime. This results in very wide variations in the types of incident that could occur, where they might occur and the probability of spills.

As part of the scientific basis for the management plan, oil spills from five discharge points in the North Sea have been modelled. The discharge points are in the Tampen, Troll-Oseberg, Heimdal, Sleipner and Ekofisk areas, see Figure 6.5. The discharge points were selected by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and according to expert assessments are representative of activities in the North Sea.

Representative oil types and blowout rates/durations were selected for the five discharge points, based on data from existing fields in the same areas. Large numbers of simulations (almost 2 700) were run for each discharge point, using four different spill rates (range 1 248–6 346 tonnes per day) and four different durations (2, 5, 15 and 38–67 days). The number of simulations run for these variables was large enough to cover the range of weather conditions throughout the year. For each discharge point, it was also assumed that a spill could occur either on the seabed or at the surface. The modelling results show the geographical spread of a spill from one of the five discharge points and the probability of a spill reaching a particular area.

Figure 6.5 The discharge points used for simulation of oil spills

Figure 6.5 The discharge points used for simulation of oil spills

Source Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

The results of the oil drift modelling were used as a basis for calculating the probability that a spill would have consequences for seabirds, marine mammals, the shoreline and fish in areas that might be contaminated by a spill. In a consequence assessment, it is assumed that a spill does occur, and data from oil drift modelling are used to calculate various factors, including geographical overlap between oil and the distribution of various species (seabirds, marine mammals, fish and plankton) and between oil and shoreline habitats, and to assess damage and mortality and how long populations will take to recover. The effects of measures to reduce the consequences of spills (oil preparedness and response) are not taken into account. In these assessments, pre-defined categories were used for the environmental consequences, which were population mortality and recovery time. For recovery time, the categories were serious (> 10 years, substantial (3–10 years), moderate (1–3 years), minor (< 1 year) and none. The recovery time is the time from the occurrence of the spill to the point when the situation is the same as before the spill.

Of the five areas, Troll–Oseberg is the closest to land, and a spill from the discharge point here is therefore most likely to lead to beaching of oil (landfall), with consequences for shoreline habitats and seabirds in near-shore areas. Landfall could occur along much of the coast of Western Norway and as far north as Sør-Trøndelag, because the current patterns in the area are such that oil could drift both southwards and northwards. The area that might be affected is important for a wide range of seabird species, and there are many breeding colonies. The calculations show that the most vulnerable species are shag in near-shore areas and little auk in the open sea, and that mortality is likely to be highest in winter. The environmental consequences of an oil spill for seabirds were generally calculated to be minor or moderate (recovery time up to 3 years), but there was also a small probability of substantial consequences (recovery time 3–10 years). Modelling of oil in the water column showed that oil concentrations after a blow-out in this area would be limited because the oil would spread widely, lowering the concentrations in the water column and the probability of effects on fish and other aquatic organisms.

A blow-out in the Ekofisk area is not very likely to result in landfall of oil because of the distance from land, and would mainly affect seabirds in a limited area of open sea and fish and other aquatic organisms. There are spawning grounds for several fish species in the area, so that the possible consequences of a spill would depend heavily on the time of year. The shallow water in this area and the presence of sandbanks also mean that the oil could contaminate the seabed and affect the benthic fauna and sandeels.

Oil on the sea surface after a blow-out in the Sleipner or Heimdal area would spread widely in an easterly direction, and could also result in landfall of oil along the Danish coast. The probability of consequences for marine mammals is highest in the event of a blow-out in the Sleipner area, since there is a possibility of landfall along the coast of Rogaland, including the Tjør islands, which are a whelping site for grey seal, and important whelping sites for both grey and common seal in the Jæren area.

According to the calculations, the potential consequences of a blow-out would generally be smaller in 2030 than in 2010, because changes in pressure conditions in the reservoirs mean that there will be a lower probability of the highest blow-out rates and longest spill durations.

The oil drift simulations show that the area of the water column affected by a spill from any of the five discharge points chosen in the North Sea would be relatively small, and that the influence area of an oil spill would only overlap to a correspondingly limited degree with fish spawning grounds. As a general rule, the scenarios that have been analysed indicate only a low risk of losses of eggs and larvae from spawning stocks in the North Sea on a scale that would affect recruitment to a year class. Effects in the water column are also strongly dependent on the oil type and wind and current conditions, which determine patterns of dilution and spread. The potential consequences also depend on the proportion of eggs and larvae that are concentrated in limited areas of the spawning grounds. If only parts of the spawning grounds are used each year, the damage potential will be higher in years when spawning takes place near oil installations.

A blow-out in the Heimdal area would result in an influence area in the water column overlapping with spawning grounds for the largest number of species (saithe, haddock, whiting and Norway pout), while corresponding influence areas for Sleipner and Ekofisk are inside the spawning grounds used by mackerel. None of the areas overlaps directly with the areas defined as sandeel habitat, but both Sleipner and Ekofisk are close to these areas.

The results show that the discharge point for a blow-out, particularly whether or not it is close to and could affect vulnerable species and habitats, plays a major role in determining the potential consequences, and is more important than spill rate or duration.

Environmental risk assessment

The consequence assessments described above are based on the assumption that an oil spill has occurred. To assess the environmental risk associated with a spill, the probability of a spill must also be taken into account. Calculations of environmental risk combine the frequency (probability) of events with the probability of damage if a spill does occur. The blow-out frequencies used have been calculated partly on the basis of historical data, using Norwegian and international data for a number of years up to 2010. It is normal industry practice to use frequency data for specific activities in environmental risk assessments, but this may not give an accurate picture of the probability and environmental consequences of an incident in a large area where many different types of activities are in progress at the same time, and it does not take into account other factors that may influence probability (see Chapter 6.1.2).

The environmental risk associated with activities in the five areas analysed was calculated to be highest for Troll-Oseberg, as a result of the combination of the potential consequences and a higher probability of a blow-out than in the other areas. Seabirds in near-shore areas (shags) account for much of the risk, and the overall risk level is about 0.85 % per year (cumulative risk of environmental consequences with a recovery time exceeding one year), or 8.5 incidents per 1000 years of activity. The calculations also show that in most cases, the recovery time would be three years or less.

The risk of consequences is considerably lower for marine mammals and the shoreline than for seabirds.

For the five areas use in the consequence assessments, it was generally found that the environmental consequences of an oil spill would be most serious for seabirds in the open sea. Both the potential environmental consequences and the environmental risk are greater in the northern part of the management plan area because petroleum activities take place closer to the coast.

Results for the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas

Apart from those in the northern part of the management plan area, the North Sea oil and gas fields are relatively far from land, whereas many of the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas are close to the coast. This is reflected in the results of the consequence and environmental risk assessments. For four of the five areas considered (Tampen, Sleipner, Heimdal and Ekofisk), there is only a limited probability that an oil spill would affect coastal areas and the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas along the coast. Troll-Oseberg is closer to land, and there is a much higher probability that an oil spill here would result in landfall of oil. The probability of a spill affecting a particularly valuable and vulnerable area along the coast is also highest here (up to 35 % probability of oil reaching Bremanger–Ytre Sula). This shows that the location of a spill is important in determining its environmental consequences. An oil spill from the Tampen or Troll-Oseberg area could spread as far as Sør-Trøndelag in the coastal and other ocean currents, and could therefore affect particularly valuable and vulnerable areas in the Norwegian Sea.

The Sleipner and Ekofisk areas are close to one of the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas, «sandeel habitat south», and a spill from these fields could result in pollution of the water column in parts of the sandeel habitat. Oil drift modelling shows the highest concentrations of oil in the upper layers of the water column. Simulations also show that after a blow-out from either of these discharge points, a substantial proportion of the oil could sink to the bottom and contaminate the seabed. This could particularly affect sandeels, which are highly stationary and spend much of the year burrowing in the sand. The influence area (in the water column) of a spill from the Sleipner area would also overlap with another particularly valuable and vulnerable area, mackerel spawning grounds.

6.2.4 Assessment of the environmental consequences of acute pollution elsewhere in the North Sea

Most of the North Sea has been opened for oil and gas activities, and there is activity much closer to the coastal zone and the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas than the areas that were selected for the consequence assessments.

Acute pollution near the coast or the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas could have serious environmental consequences. Most of the particularly valuable and vulnerable areas lie along the coast, and Table 6.1 shows that all of them are either vulnerable or highly vulnerable to oil pollution. The shoreline is generally vulnerable to landfall of oil pollution from shipping or the petroleum sector.

It is important to minimise environmental risk through preventive measures, comprehensive emergency planning and robust preparedness and response systems. However, current technology does not make it possible to prevent damage from an oil spill under all circumstances. If there is a spill from activities close to land, there is little time to deal with an oil slick on the sea before it makes landfall. Activities near the coast could have serious environmental consequences in the event of a spill. The emergency preparedness and response requirements are therefore more stringent for near-coast activities than for those further out to sea.

6.3 Acute pollution from other sources

6.3.1 Nuclear facilities

The most important potential sources of acute radioactive pollution in the North Sea and Skagerrak are an accident or an accidental discharge from a nuclear power plant or a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, or an accident involving a ship carrying spent nuclear fuel or a nuclear-powered vessel. However, the probability of such accidents is considered to be low.

Several of the North Sea countries use nuclear power to meet part of their energy needs. An accident at a nuclear facility, for instance a power plant or reprocessing plant, could result in substantial releases of radioactivity to the atmosphere and the sea. A number of nuclear power plants currently in operation release radioactivity directly or indirectly to the North Sea. It is uncertain what trend can be expected in the risk level in the years ahead. There are plans to construct a number of new nuclear power plants in Europe, particularly in Russia, but other power plants are being shut down.

Figure 6.6 Nuclear facilities around the North Sea

Figure 6.6 Nuclear facilities around the North Sea

Source OSPAR

Shipments of spent highly enriched nuclear fuel from countries in the former Eastern European bloc along the Norwegian coast to Murmansk pose a risk of pollution in the event of a shipwreck. Since 2009, six such shipments have been registered, and a further four are planned between now and 2015. Moreover, climate change may result in the Northeast Passage becoming ice-free, and this would make it possible to transport spent nuclear fuel between Asia and Europe along the Norwegian coast.

Nuclear-powered vessels (submarines and icebreakers) are widely used in Norwegian and adjoining sea areas, and regularly call at Norwegian ports. Russia has plans to construct and upgrade a number of nuclear-powered vessels, which will increase the risk level in the area.

Preventive measures

There is a continual process at global level to limit the risk of serious nuclear accidents, and risk-reduction measures are being implemented at several levels, both through cooperation between national authorities and through international and national agreements and decisions. The following measures reduce the risk of accidents and the level of environmental risk:

  • The Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Radiation Protection Authority cooperate on the exchange of information, notification and a preparedness and response system for dealing with incidents at sea.

  • There is currently no requirement to notify coastal states of maritime transport of radioactive material, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference recommends that the practice of notification of coastal states by the sending state is followed. The Radiation Protection Authority will follow up the recommendation in order to strengthen and improve notification procedures.

  • The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Vardø VTS Centre and the Radiation Protection Authority have formalised notification routines to ensure that information is exchanged if one of these agencies becomes aware of such a transport. Transports are kept under continual observation by the Vardø VTS Centre while they are in Norwegian waters.

Assessment of the potential consequences of acute radioactive pollution

Although the probability of a radiation accident is very low, events after the tsunami in Japan demonstrate that even accidents that are considered to be very unlikely can happen. Releases of radioactivity can have very serious consequences. A serious nuclear accident could affect the marine environment both locally and in a wider area, and also have transboundary impacts.

The environmental consequences for the management plan area of acute radioactive pollution in or around the North Sea would depend on the scenario, the quantity released, the time and location of the release and the type of radioactive substance released. Depending on the scenario, acute radioactive pollution could affect species at different levels in the water column or on the seabed. Three different scenarios have been analysed: a release of radioactivity to air from the Sellafield plant, the wreck of a nuclear submarine and an accident during transport of spent nuclear fuel. Table 6.4 provides an overview of the calculated consequences of the three scenarios on a number of ecosystem components.

A release of radioactivity to air could have serious consequences for Norway and require large-scale, costly countermeasures on land. Calculations for seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other marine organisms show that they would only contain elevated levels of caesium-137 for a short period after the accident. This scenario would have less impact on benthic organisms and communities than on organisms that live in the upper levels of the water column, largely because the pollution would be deposited on the water surface and diluted in the water column. In all three scenarios, it was found that the concentration of radioactivity in fish would rise considerably, and would exceed the limit values for human consumption for a period. It is likely that acute radioactive pollution would have major consequences for exports of fish and other seafood even if the quantity released is not large enough to have any noticeable effects on the marine environment.

Table 6.4 Predicted consequences of the nuclear accident scenarios assessed.

Nuclear accident scenario

Ecosystem component

Release to air from the Sellafield plant

Submarine wreck

Transport of spent nuclear fuel

Seafood safety

Major *

Major *

Major *


Moderate 2 *

Moderate 2 *

Moderate 2 *

Benthic communities

Minor 2 *

Major **

Moderate 2 *


None 2 **

Moderate 2 *

None 2 **


Unknown 3 *

Unknown 3 *

Unknown 3 *

Marine mammals

Unknown 3 *

Unknown 3 *

Unknown 3 *

Ecological relationships/ processes

Unknown 3 *

Unknown 3 *

Unknown 3 *

The uncertainty of the assessments is indicated by the numbers (1 = low, 2 = moderate, 3 = high), and the knowledge level by the number of stars (* = poor, ** = moderate, *** = relatively good).

For all three scenarios, the modelling results indicate that the maximum dose of radioactivity received by most organisms would generally be less than 10 µGy per hour, which is the level above which effects can be expected. The only exception was in the scenario for an accident involving a nuclear submarine, where it was calculated that certain species of benthos would locally be exposed to doses of up to 70 µGy per hour.

At present, radioactive pollution is not having detectable effects on plants and animals in the marine environment of the North Sea and Skagerrak. Nevertheless, knowledge of the possible effects on plants and animals in the event of an accident is important. The effects of ionising radiation on organisms vary with the dose, the type of radiation and the sensitivity of the organisms in question. Known effects include elevated morbidity, lower reproductive success, cytogenetic effects and higher mortality. Acute effects (damage that becomes apparent shortly after exposure) only occur after exposure to high doses of radiation.

6.3.2 Onshore activities

Accidents at onshore industrial installations and subsequent acute pollution can also affect the coastal and marine environment. Spills of oil or chemicals from oil refineries or chemical plants are the most likely to be a threat to the marine environment in the North Sea and Skagerrak. There are a number of industrial installations along the coast where a major accident could have impacts on particularly valuable areas in coastal waters, especially in the event of an oil spill.

Consequence assessments have been carried out for spills from two Norwegian oil refineries, at Mongstad and Slagentangen, and from the Preemraff oil refinery in Lysekil in Sweden. The overall conclusion is that these scenarios would have moderate consequences. However, the level of uncertainty for these assessments is very high.

6.4 Other consequences of acute pollution

In addition to environmental consequences, acute pollution may have substantial consequences for commercial activities and outdoor recreation interests along the coast. Conditions for aquaculture are particularly favourable in Norway because of the long stretches of sheltered coastline, the large areas available, and the clean waters with a high rate of water exchange and high water quality.

The aquaculture industry is dependent on suitable, clean production conditions and good biological conditions in recipients, and is therefore vulnerable to pollution that reduces water quality and results in poorer growing conditions for farmed organisms.

Acute pollution could in the short term have an extremely negative effect on aquaculture and fisheries in commercial terms and in terms of market access and consumer confidence.

In the event of an acute pollution incident, oil-based or other environmentally harmful substances would become biologically available and enter marine food chains, thus affecting seafood safety. Monitoring and control of levels of contaminants in seafood from areas where oil or chemical spills have occurred are necessary to document compliance with the statutory maximum levels of contaminants and to show that seafood is safe.

Satisfactory control of food safety by the authorities is essential for the high national and international reputation of Norwegian seafood products. These products, particularly those from more northerly waters, do have a good reputation at present. Previous experience of oil spills and of cases where a product has attracted negative attention has shown that in the short term it can be difficult to sell products from the polluted area.

The proximity of spectacular untouched nature is considered to be one of the Norwegian tourist industry’s main comparative advantages in competition with other countries. Acute pollution incidents could in the short term have an extremely negative effect on tourism in coastal areas bordering on the management plan area. The coastline of the North Sea and Skagerrak are heavily used for outdoor recreation activities. The many holiday cabins are popular, there are large numbers of leisure craft, and many people engage in recreational fishing and other outdoor activities along the shoreline and in coastal waters. Oil or chemical spills are also likely to cause serious disruption to such activities.

6.5 Preparedness and response to acute pollution: reducing the consequences of spills

Norway’s aim is to maintain a preparedness and response system for acute pollution that is appropriately dimensioned to the risk level, and that protects the environment and helps to achieve the goal of a clean, rich and productive marine environment. In the event of a spill, the primary aim is to avoid environmental damage and secondarily to limit the scale of any damage. In the event of an incident involving a risk of environmental damage, steps must be taken to avoid pollution. At sea, this generally means taking steps to prevent oil from being discharged into the sea. If this is not possible, the main aim is to minimise the spread and scale of the pollution and any subsequent environmental damage.

6.5.1 Governmental preparedness and response

The governmental preparedness and response system is intended to deal with major incidents of acute pollution that are not covered by private or municipal systems, and the risk of such spills. There are no general requirements for the shipping industry to maintain its own preparedness and response system to deal with acute pollution, and the governmental system is therefore designed mainly to deal with acute pollution from ships.

Governmental preparedness and response capability and the locations where equipment and other resources are available must be determined on the basis of knowledge of environmental risk. Just as for preparedness and response in other sectors, this means that the governmental system is not based on the worst-case scenarios or on a situation where it is necessary to respond to several incidents at the same time. Nevertheless, the scenarios used as a basis for designing the system involve large spills and serious pollution.

A new governmental preparedness and response analysis for Norway was presented in June 2011. It was based on an analysis of the probability of incidents involving spills from shipping and an environmental risk analysis. The preparedness and response analysis uses scenarios of fairly serious spills in a number of geographical areas along the Norwegian coast where there is an elevated environmental risk. Four of these scenarios would affect the management plan area (spills in the Oslofjord near Moss, near Langesund (Telemark) affecting the coast of Southern Norway, in the Jæren area (Rogaland) and off Fedje (Hordaland)). The analysis recommends strengthening preparedness and response in these areas.

The analysis was intended to provide a basis for designing governmental preparedness and response capability for dealing with acute pollution. It also included simulation of the effects of oil spill response measures for each scenario to illustrate how these reduce the consequences of spills. Other factors that were taken into account include variations in weather and current conditions, mobilisation and transport times for equipment, availability of personnel and infrastructure. The quantity of oil recovered, the length of shoreline affected by landfall, the influence area at sea and the quantity of oil in areas defined as environmentally vulnerable are important factors when assessing the effect of the oil spill response.

On the basis of the simulations and a cost-benefit analysis of the results obtained using different quantities of oil spill response equipment and different response times, recommendations were made for governmental preparedness and response capability. Next, a gap analysis was performed, comparing the current and recommended preparedness and response capability. The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and the Norwegian Coastal Administration keep the preparedness and response situation along the coast under review.

Experience of oil spill response operations shows that their effect depends strongly on the weather conditions. Effective damage limitation at sea is only possible for about 60 % of the year, and in practice there are considerable limitations on the effectiveness of the equipment. On average, only about 10–20 % of the total quantity of oil in a spill can be recovered from the sea surface , although under favourable conditions a considerably larger proportion can be recovered. After MS Godafoss grounded in 2011, conditions were good during the recovery operation, and almost 50 % of the oil released was recovered. On the other hand, both simulations and experience of previous oil spill operations show that oil reaches land rapidly after accidents near the shoreline, and it is almost impossible to avoid landfall. In most cases, a considerable stretch of coastline will be contaminated, necessitating large-scale clean-up operations.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs has the overall responsibility for the governmental preparedness and response system. The Coastal Administration maintains operational preparedness, and also functions as the supervisory authority for private and municipal acute pollution response operations. It can provide assistance for such operations and if necessary can take over operations to deal with major spills either partly or completely. Municipalities and private services have a duty to provide assistance to governmental operations if requested. The Coastal Administration is operative 24 hours a day, and receives and deals with reports of acute pollution. It maintains an emergency response organisation with well-trained personnel who can be deployed to avoid or reduce damage after a release of acute pollution.

There is a great deal of petroleum activity and shipping in large parts of the management plan area, and this is reflected in the ready availability of preparedness and response resources. Both the petroleum industry and the Coastal Administration have access to considerable resources in the event of a serious acute pollution incident. It is also possible to draw on relevant resources in other countries. The Copenhagen Agreement and the Bonn Agreement deal with international assistance in the event of a threat of acute pollution, and both apply in the management plan area. Furthermore, Norway and the UK have a bilateral agreement on assistance (the NORBRIT Plan), and assistance from other European countries can be requested through the EU Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).

The most important resources that can be deployed for governmental acute pollution response operations in the management plan area are as follows:

  • the Coastal Administration’s emergency response organisation, which has specialised, trained personnel;

  • seven of the governmental main depots with a staff of about 10 at each depot;

  • three supplementary depots;

  • 4–5 Coast Guard vessels permanently carrying oil spill response equipment on board;

  • two oil recovery vessels for operations near the coast;

  • one surveillance aircraft fitted with equipment for oil detection;

  • satellite monitoring;

  • assistance agreements with onshore terminals and refineries;

  • resources in other countries.

In the event of a major oil spill operation in the management plan area, equipment from all 16 governmental main depots could be deployed.

In recent years, a number of steps have been taken to strengthen governmental preparedness and response to acute pollution in the management plan area:

  • Emergency response equipment at all depots has been renewed, replaced and reallocated.

  • New Coast Guard vessels carrying oil spill recovery equipment have been phased in, which has increased capacity and mobility for ocean-going response resources. The Coast Guard’s new multi-purpose offshore vessel OV Utvær, which is equipped with integrated high-capacity oil spill recovery equipment, is now operative.

  • The emergency cargo transfer capacity for bunker and cargo oil has been strengthened by the deployment of new equipment. Two sets of equipment are stored at depots in the management plan area.

  • The competence of personnel in the governmental system has been strengthened by increasing the frequency of courses and exercises.

  • The knowledge base for environmental risk and preparedness analyses has been strengthened, for example by testing and further developing three-dimensional modelling of oil drift. A better overview has been gained of preparedness and response resources, including municipal resources.

  • New regulations have been adopted concerning the use of vessels for oil spill response, and contracts have been signed with the owners of vessels that have the necessary certificates.

  • Guidelines have been developed through a project headed by the Norwegian Coastal Administration for general competence-building for preparedness in coastal waters and shoreline clean-up.

  • The preparedness and response system for spills of chemicals and hazardous substances from ships has been strengthened by purchasing equipment and training personnel in Oslo and Bergen for operations at sea.

  • The Coastal Administration has identified sites for ports of refuge and completed consultation processes concerning these sites for the entire management plan area.

6.5.2 Municipal preparedness and response

Municipal resources form part of the public-sector preparedness and response system. A municipality is responsible for providing the necessary preparedness and is duty bound to respond to minor acute pollution incidents that occur within its boundaries if there is no private-sector system to deal with them, and if those responsible for the pollution are not in a position to take action. They are also responsible for dealing with incidents where the polluter is unknown.

Minor incidents are acute pollution incidents that may occur in connection with normal activities within the municipality and where no private-sector resources are available. This typically means transport-related acute pollution incidents, such as a spill from an overturned tanker, a minor spill from a ship, or a rail accident. Municipal sea- and land-based capabilities must be determined on the basis of environmental risk and preparedness analyses carried out by the municipalities. Factors considered in these analyses include the types of activity within a municipality, the kinds of incidents that may occur, the type and size of spills that may occur and how they can be dealt with to protect identified environmental assets.

All the municipalities take part in mandatory cooperation in this field through the 33 intermunicipal acute pollution control committees. A host municipality has been appointed in each of the 33 regions. This system makes it possible to strengthen local and regional capabilities more effectively.

In all, about 70 000 metres of lightweight booms and 300 oil skimmers are stored at municipal and intermunicipal depots. Municipal and intermunicipal equipment for combating acute chemical pollution is held by the larger fire brigades or by the local port authorities. It is mainly their personnel who are trained to use the equipment and who are deployed during clean-up operations.

6.5.3 Private-sector preparedness and response

Private-sector systems must have the capability to deal with acute pollution caused by an enterprise’s own operations. The Climate and Pollution Agency has set special requirements for a number of enterprises, including petroleum companies, tank farms, refineries, and land-based enterprises that handle environmentally hazardous chemicals. Operators must design and establish their own preparedness and response systems, which must comply with the requirements set by the Climate and Pollution Agency under the health, safety and environment regulations and in specific permits. For the petroleum industry, the capability of a system is based on environmental risk and preparedness and response analyses carried out for a particular exploration well or production from a specific field. Important input data for the analyses includes weathering studies of relevant oil types and oil drift forecasts for specific localities. The potential quantities of oil on the sea surface, in the water column and on beaches determine the amount and type of equipment that is needed and the types of response that are appropriate. The choice of method and response time also depends on the distance from the spill to vulnerable species and habitats such as seabirds, spawning stocks of fish and shoreline habitats, and whether a spill happens at a time of year when vulnerability is high.

Preparedness and response systems are normally designed to deal with blowout rates calculated on the basis of the pressure and flow rate for specific wells, and spill durations that are often based on the length of time needed to drill a relief well. The operators do not design their systems to deal with a worst-case scenario (highest blowout rate/longest duration), but are nevertheless responsible if such an event should occur.

The operating companies on the Norwegian continental shelf have the overall responsibility for combating acute pollution from subsea and surface installations. The Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies (NOFO) has established and maintains the oil spill emergency preparedness and response on the continental shelf on behalf of 30 operating companies. This includes resources for dealing with spills in open water, near the coast and in the shore zone.

The petroleum industry aims to combat an oil spill as close to the source as possible. The strategy for preventing and dealing with oil spills involves a number of barriers:

  • Barrier 0: Preventive measures on the installation itself;

  • Barrier 1: Systems for use in open waters close to the source;

  • Barrier 2: Systems for use in the oil spill trajectory towards the coast;

  • Barrier 3: Systems for use in coastal waters and on the shoreline;

  • Barrier 4: Shoreline clean-up.

The oil spill preparedness and response resources in the management plan area consist of a combination of private- and public-sector resources. The main private-sector resources are:

  • three NOFO bases (Stavanger, Mongstad and Kristiansund), each equipped with two offshore recovery systems, dispersants and three coastal recovery systems;

  • the preparedness and response system for the fields Tampen, Troll, Oseberg, Balder, Gjøa, Sleipner and Ula/Gyda, with NOFO offshore recovery systems on standby vessels;

  • the preparedness and response system for the fields in the Ekofisk area;

  • preparedness and response resources at the following refineries: Slagentangen, Mongstad, the Sture terminal and Kårstø.

  • personnel and equipment from the company MMB, and personnel from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and NOFO’s Spesialteam.

In the event of a spill from non-petroleum activities, private emergency response actors have a duty to assist the government. In this way they provide a supplement to public-sector resources and improve safety for all users of Norway’s seas. Resources include helicopters and upgrading of the fishing fleet to provide towing and tugboat capability. This additional capability could be very important in the event of non-petroleum-related accidents at sea or along the coast. In the same way, private search and rescue resources will function as a supplement to governmental resources.

Go to the top
Go to front page