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Safety and environmental protection in offshore activities

Keywords: Upstream Industry, Offshore Operations, Offshore safety, Environmental Protection
Fig. 1. Offshore Oil & Gas activities in the Adriat-ic Sea (Photo courtesy: Paolo Macini).
Fig. 2. Offshore Oil & Gas activities in the Medi-terranenan Sea (Photo courtesy: Paolo Macini).
Fig. 3. Jack-up drilling rig operating in the Adriatic Sea (Photo courtesy: Paolo Macini).
Fig. 4. Offshore Oil production in the Adriatic Sea (Photo courtesy: Paolo Macini).

In 2015, the Department signed an agreement and a multidisciplinary research project funded by the Italian Ministry of the economic development (Directorate General for Safety of Mining and Energy activities) to develop research in the field of safety and environmental protection in Italian offshore activities.

The project is a part of a large framework of scientific and technological research project involving several Italian Universities (U. of Bologna, Politecnico of Turin, U. of Rome “La Sapienza”) and research institutions (to name but a few, INGV - the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, CNR - the National Research Council, RSE - Ricerca Sistema Energetico, etc).

The Directorate General for Safety of Mining and Energy activities plays a key role on the issues related to the health and safety of workers and the environmental preservation and protection, since it was closely involved in the transposition of Directive 2013/30/EU (offshore safety in upstream sector) and the adoption of the Offshore Protocol for the Mediterranean Sea. The above EU Directive is now fully enforced in Italy (Legislative Decree no. 18 August 2015, n.145).

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has been the first world organization to deal with the marine water protection, launching the Regional Seas Program (RSP) in 1974. It aims to establish a common global strategy and a framework for the environmental protection, promoting the sustainable development and giving, however, an implementation at a “regional” level, following the identification of 18 different macro areas. The RSPs carry out their functions by an Action Plan (AP). In most cases, a strong legal framework through a “regional convention” and associated protocols on the specific issues supports the AP. It is well known how the EU policy has always been aimed to reduce the occurrence of major accidents related to offshore oil and gas activities and to limit their consequences, as well as to increase the protection of the marine environment and coastal economies, and improving the response mechanisms in case of accident.

As a result, the EU regulatory framework became highly wide, relying on a number of directives of great importance such as:

  • Directive 92/91/EC concerning the minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers in the mineral-extracting industries through drilling (Health and Safety workers Directive);
  • Directive 96/61/EC of September 24th 1996 concerning integrated pollution prevention and control;
  • Directive 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for EU common action about water policies;
  • Directive 2013/30/EU on safety of offshore oil and gas operations and amending Directive 2004/35/EC.

Referring to the mentioned RSP, 16 Mediterranean Countries and the EU adopted the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP). The MAP was absolutely the first ever plan adopted as a regional program under the cover of UNEP, reflecting the great attention on the offshore environmental protection by the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

In particular, we note the Convention for Protection against Pollution in the Mediterranean Sea (Barcelona Convention) as a legal and operating instrument of the MAP with the coastal Countries of both sides of the basin, both EU and extra EU, as signatories. In accordance with the mentioned Barcelona Convention, about the offshore issues and with specific reference to environmental aspects, we mention the “Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution resulting from exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf and the seabed and its subsoil” (Offshore Protocol).

The first segment of the research carried out by the Petroleum Engineering research group of  the Department concerns the study, testing and monitoring of the activities of offshore drilling rigs operating in Italy, with particular reference to the recording and storage of drilling and production parameters systems. Study of inalterable and protected data recording systems, for the purpose of safety management and safety increase in the Italian offshore Oil & Gas exploration activities. The research will also investigate the possibility of coordinating the monitoring for the safety management of operations, with particular reference to the offshore Oil & Gas industry. The other two segment of the research activity are the following, carried out by the Industrial Safety research group and Geomatics research group:

Study of the effects of offshore oil spills on man and the marine environment. Analysis of dispersion and degradation (weathering) dynamics. Scenarios and risk assessments in the event of actual spills and possible determination of operating procedures, including the application of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 18 August 2015, n.145.

Study of methods and advanced control instrumentation for the measurement of anthropogenic ground deformations phenomena related to the production of underground fluids (oil and gas). The study should also provide for the development of feasibility studies for the monitoring of ground deformations.

Main publications

Giacchetta, G., Macini, P., Mesini, E., La sicurezza delle operazioni in mare nel settore idrocarburi e la nuova direttiva europea 2013/30/UE, Proc. VGR 2016, Valutazione e gestione del rischio negli insediamenti civili e industriali, Istituto Superiore Antincendi, Roma,13 – 15 Sept. 2016.

Macini, P., Mesini, E., Antoncecchi, I., Terlizzese, F., Seismic, Ground Deformation and Reservoir Pressure Monitoring: Guidelines for the E&P Industry in Italy, Paper IPTC 18618, International Petroleum Technology Conference, Bangkok, 14–16 Nov. 2016.

Research projects

Atto Esecutivo 2016 in attuazione dell’Accordo Operativo tra Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico (DGS-UNMIG) e il Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile, Chimica, Ambientale e dei Materiali (DICAM) dell’Università di Bologna, 2016.