O&G UK Regulatory Rigor in Evidence to ECC Committee Inquiry

Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK's chief executive, gave oral evidence at the Energy and Climate Change Committee's session as part of its inquiry into UK oil and gas deepwater drilling.

Mr. Webb opened his evidence with the following statement, "The Macondo well incident was a dreadful event and first and foremost we think of the eleven men who lost their lives and the others who were injured, some of them seriously, as a result of that catastrophic event.

"The blowout and the sustained flow of oil which resulted from it was truly shocking and rightly caused the offshore oil and gas industry and its regulators around the world to reflect upon the implications of this incident for their own operations.

"The UK was no exception and without prompting, the industry together with its regulators and trade unions, quickly came together to take stock of our position and without seeking to pre-empt or prejudge the lessons to be learned from Macondo, set about a thorough review of our practices and procedures, looking to see what enhancements could be made.

"One result of this review is that we continue to have faith in our regulatory systems and industry practices. Unsurprisingly we have managed to find opportunities for improvement and are moving to implement these. However the possible enhancements identified are relatively marginal in nature and do not cause us to lose faith in the strength and integrity of the regime under which we work in all parts of the UK continental shelf (UKCS).

"Much has been made of the fact that the Macondo well was drilled in deep water and indeed, some Governments have imposed moratoriums on drilling in deeper waters. The UK Government has so far, and quite rightly in our view, resisted the notion of a drilling moratorium.

"Furthermore most of these calls for drilling moratoriums tend to focus on deepwater areas. In truth, there is no reason for this concentration on deeper water, save that this recent and awful Macondo incident just happened to be in deeper water.

"The depth of water is not the critical element here. Rather, what is critical are the practices and procedures employed to drill the well and to regulate those who are doing that drilling. In this regard, policy and practice in the UK are substantially different to those employed in the US Gulf of Mexico and there is no cause for public concern that the industry standards and regulatory practices and procedures employed in the UK are not fully fit for purpose. They are, and they militate strongly against anything like Macondo ever happening here."