Oil and gas: legislation on emissions and releases

How operators need to comply with regulations on pollution including REACH, greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances and other waste

REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008

The REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 enforce the provisions of the EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restrictions of Chemicals) Regulation 1907/2006, which entered into force on 1 June 2007.

The UK regulations apply to the following offshore installations within the UK territorial sea and UKCS:

  • fixed and floating platforms
  • floating production storage and off-loading systems
  • floating storage units

The Offshore Environment and Decommissioning Branch (OED) of OPRED (BEIS) regulates the use/discharge of chemicals under the Offshore Chemicals Regulations (OCR). The OCR were recently amended to cover all operational discharges and non-operational releases of offshore chemicals – the Offshore Chemicals (Amendment) Regulations 2011 entered into force on 30 March 2011.

The Energy Act 2008 (Consequential Modifications) (Offshore Environmental Protection) Order 2010 applies the requirements of the UK REACH Enforcement Regulations and OCR to offshore installations involved in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and gas unloading/storage activities. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the UK Competent Authority for REACH. It works closely with the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and other government departments and agencies on policy and enforcement. HSE also enforces maritime health and safety regulations that apply to offshore installations.

To ensure a consistent regime, offshore enforcement of REACH is the responsibility of the bodies familiar with enforcement requirements in similar circumstances. HSE and OPRED (BEIS) enforce offshore health/safety and environmental protection using their respective onshore administrative procedures and offshore inspectors to check compliance. In this regard, OPRED (BEIS) sits on the REACH Enforcement Liaison Group (established by the HSE) to ensure a proportionate and consistent method of enforcement is adopted.

Note: OPRED (BEIS) regulatory regime for offshore chemicals does not extend to Scottish-controlled waters. Within this area, REACH is enforced by an authorised body (eg Marine Scotland) on behalf of the Scottish Government.


The EU REACH Regulation requires the registration of chemical substances by specified deadlines (in 2010, 2013 and 2018) based on tonnage levels and the properties/toxicity of certain substances (ie PBTs, vPvBs and CMRs). Management of the REACH system at EU level is handled by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

From an offshore environmental protection perspective, the OSPAR Hazardous Material Control System (HMCS) and REACH requirements run in parallel, with the HMCS approach to controlling offshore chemicals appropriately harmonised with the provisions of the EU Regulation. Accordingly, the UK REACH Enforcement Regulations contain certain provisions from the OCR, so effectively the OCR (and hence HMCS) are the mechanism for supporting the application of environmental protection elements of REACH to offshore installations.

Harmonisation of HMCS

The OSPAR Oil Industry Committee (OIC) has been following implementation of the EU Regulation and reviewing its consequences for the HMCS. As a result of debates at OIC 2009, it was agreed additional work to progress the HMCS/REACH harmonisation process should be undertaken by an intersessional correspondence group – ICG-REACH.

Following 2 meetings of the ICG-REACH (in May and October 2009), the UK submitted 3 papers to OIC 2010 to more closely align the OSPAR chemical management regime with the EU REACH Regulation. The 3 papers, which comprise 2 recommendations and one set of revised guidelines, were accepted by OIC and subsequently endorsed (subject to very minor changes) by the OSPAR Commission in September 2010. They are:

OSPAR Recommendation 2010/3 on a Harmonised Offshore Chemical Notification Format (HOCNF) OSPAR Recommendation 2010/4 on a Harmonised Pre-Screening Scheme for Offshore Chemicals OSPAR Guidelines (2012-05) for Completing the HOCNF

The new recommendations and revised guidelines came into effect in January 2011 and January 2012 respectively.

Queries on the application of REACH should, in the first instance, be directed to the HSE helpdesk at However, queries on OPRED (BEIS) offshore enforcement role can be sent to David Foskett at Please copy to David Foskett all HSW responses to offshore operators / chemical suppliers as they would be useful for the purposes of monitoring closed decisions and updating the industry sector guidance document.

Mercury Export and Data (Enforcement) Regulations 2010

Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1102/2008 on the banning of exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds / mixtures (“the EU Mercury Regulation”) implements the objectives of the Community Strategy Concerning Mercury (adopted in 2005), which aims to reduce the supply of, and demand for, mercury, in order to protect human health and the environment.

The EU Mercury Regulation has been transposed into national law by the UK Mercury Export and Data (Enforcement) Regulations 2010 (“the UK Mercury Regulations”) which entered into force on 8 March 2010. The offences concerning ‘mercury exports’ / ‘mixing of mercury with other substances for export purposes’ came into force on 15 March 2011 and the offences concerning the ‘reporting of data by importers / exporters of mercury’ entered force on 1 July 2012. The UK Mercury Regulations apply (as appropriate) to all offshore installations that carry out activities such as oil and gas production, and gas and carbon dioxide unloading / storage.

Pursuant to the EU Mercury Regulation, the Commission issued in December 2011 Directive 2011/97/EU (amending Directive 1999/31/EC - the `Landfill Directive’) which sets out specific criteria for the storage of metallic mercury considered as waste. In line with the supplemental Directive’s obligations, UK transposition (by Defra) will explicitly focus on ‘landfill operations’. This therefore means that there will be no regulatory impacts on the offshore oil and gas industry from the national transposition of Directive 2011/97/EU.

Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015

The F-Gases Regulation (EU) No. 517/2014 aims to protect the environment by reducing emissions of F-Gases (i.e. hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)) from refrigeration, air conditioning units, high voltage switchgear, heat pumps and fire-protection systems, through the establishment of rules on, amongst other things, the containment, use, recovery and destruction of F-Gases.

Some of the various Implementing Acts which were established pursuant to the F-Gases Regulation (EC) No. 842/2006 have subsequently been replaced by new delegated or implementing acts adopted by the Commission in accordance with Regulation (EU) No. 517/2014. Any implementing acts which have not been replaced will remain in force and continue to apply unless and until repealed by new delegated or implementing acts adopted by the Commission pursuant to Regulation (EU) No. 517/2014. The Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 (SI 2015 / 310) as amended by the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018 / 98) and The Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 (SI 2015 / 425) as amended by the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2018 (SI 2018 / 206) came into force in 2018.

The 2015 Regulations revoke and remake with amendments the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2009 which enforced the F-Gases Regulation (EC) No. 842/2006, so as to provide powers for authorised persons to enforce the F-Gases Regulation (EU) No. 517/2014. The 2015 Regulations prescribe the offences / penalties for non-compliance with the legislative requirements and designate certification and training bodies. The 2018 Regulations give the regulatory bodies powers to issue civil penalties.

OPRED has produced a guidance document for the offshore oil and gas industry on the obligations of the F-Gases Regulation (EU) No. 517/2014 which can be accessed below. This guidance document is currently under review and will be updated to include the 2018 Regulations.

F-Gas Guidance Oct 2016 (PDF, 218KB, 23 pages)

The form in the above guidance document for the reporting of any releases of F-gases greater than or equal to 250 tonnes of CO2/e (as per the relevant section of the guidance) is available in editable format below.


Defra has also published detailed information sheets on the EU F-Gas Regulation and F gas: guidance for users, producers and traders

Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations 2015

The Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2009 - has applied since 1 January 2010 and recasts/repeals ODS Regulation (EC) No. 2037/2000 - prohibits and controls the production and use of ozone depleting substances thereby reducing atmospheric emissions of these substances in line with the Montreal Protocol (an international agreement to combat the threat of damage posed to the ozone layer by ozone depleting substances). In particular, the EU ODS Regulation concerns the control of emissions from refrigeration systems, air-conditioning units, fire-protection systems and heat pumps.

In September 2010, Commission Regulation (EU) No. 744/2010 which replaces Annex VI to the EU ODS Regulation entered into force. Regulation (EU) No. 744/2010 sets out the permitted critical uses of halons as well as the timeframes for their phasing out. Under the revised Annex VI, for oil, gas and petro-chemical facilities the critical use exemptions for halons applied to new fire-protection systems (FPS) until 31 December 2010 and will apply to FPS that existed prior to 31 December 2010 until 31 December 2020. With regards to offshore installations, the exemption in respect to existing FPS relates to all occupied and unoccupied spaces where flammable liquid or gas could be released.

On 7 March 2015, the Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations 2015 entered into force. The 2015 ODS Regulations prescribe the offences and penalties for non-compliance with the regulatory requirements. The 2015 ODS Regulations cover offshore installations involved in oil and gas, carbon capture and storage and gas unloading and storage activities. OPRED has produced a guidance document for the offshore oil and gas industry on the obligations of the EU ODS Regulations.

Guidance on the Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) Regulations 2011

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The reporting forms in Annexes B, C and E of the above document are accessible below (in ‘Word’ format).

Financial Responsibility Guidance Note for exploration and appraisal drilling in the UKCS - January 2013

Since the Gulf of Mexico incident in 2010 DECC has been reviewing the systems and processes in place with the aim of improving and strengthening procedures, including those demonstrating financial responsibility, with regard to exploration and production activity. One of the areas scrutinised was the financial capabilities of licensees following a blowout from drilling operations on the UKCS. Below is a letter sent to industry setting out OPRED (BEIS) position and guidance on how financial responsibility should be demonstrated.

Published 23 January 2013
Last updated 22 March 2019 + show all updates
  1. Amendments to the 'Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015' and 'Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations 2015' sections of the page
  2. Ozone-Depleting Substances Regulations 2015- (updated)
  3. DECC Guidance Document on the EU F-Gases Regulation - (added)
  4. Guidance on Reach - (updated)
  5. Oil and gas: Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 - (added)
  6. Oil and gas: Upate of the REACH Industry Guidance document
  7. Oil and gas: Update of the Guidance Document on the EU Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) Regulation
  8. Oil and gas: Guidance on EU Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) Regulation and EU F-Gases Regulation - (updated)
  9. Oil and Gas: Guidance on Reach updated
  10. Oil and gas: REACH industry guidance - (updated)
  11. Added Financial Responsibility Guidance
  12. First published.