EU Commission to seek oil rig disposal role

Oil industry stakeholders invited to draw up sustainable, integrated disposal plan

The energy and environment directorates of the European Commission are pushing for new powers to negotiate on behalf of the EU in international talks on the disposal of offshore oil installations, ENDS Daily has learned.

In a statement released today, the Commission announced an EU "stakeholder consultation" project designed to generate ideas on how to dispose of oil platforms, identify "win-win" solutions and develop an integrated strategy for all platforms. The statement also indicated that other "specific initiatives" to favour land disposal of oil platforms were in the pipeline.

ENDS Daily has learned that chief amongst these is a proposal by the Commission's energy and environment departments to seek a "negotiating mandate" for the Commission in international talks on the fate of disused oil platforms under the auspices of the Oslo and Paris Commissions (Ospar).

According to a spokesperson for environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, the full college of commissioners will be asked to decide "within a very few weeks" on whether the Commission should seek a mandate to pull together an EU position on the issue in time for Ospar negotiations in July. At these talks, ministers are due to consider a draft decision to permanently ban the disposal of oil installations at sea.

Ospar parties agreed a moratorium on sea disposal in 1995, and several EU countries support the idea of a permanent ban. The Commission also supports a permanent ban and will strongly promote land disposal if it gains more powers.

Within Ospar, only the UK and Norway, which is not an EU member, retain opt outs from the sea disposal moratorium. The UK's policy now looks more fluid since a change of government in 1997 (ENDS Daily 2 September 1997). Both countries will come under pressure to move further if the Commission becomes more active in developing EU policies on oil installations.

Announcement of the Commission's consultation exercise comes just a few days before oil multinational Shell is due to announce its final choice of disposal option for the Brent Spar oil storage buoy. The Brent Spar shot to fame in 1995 when Greenpeace launched a high-profile campaign to stop Shell dumping the buoy in the Atlantic (ENDS Daily 21 February 1997).

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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