Duty to perform environmental monitoring – new guidelines


In 2010 one-quarter of Norway's total greenhouse gas emissions – approximately 12.6 million tons of carbon dioxide – originated from petroleum activities.(1) Calculations show that emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the petroleum sector and petroleum activities (oil and gas) are relatively stable.(2) This also applies for sea discharges of produced water and oil. The petroleum industry has invested large amounts in reducing such discharges, and the measures that have been carried out thus far have reduced them considerably. However, there is consensus between the actors in the petroleum industry and the Norwegian authorities that there still are too many accidental discharges on the Norwegian continental shelf. Petroleum production involves the production of water, and this increases as the field matures. Pursuant to newly issued environmental guidelines, the Norwegian authorities require that the production of such water be reduced to only what is considered absolutely necessary.

Duty to perform environmental monitoring – new guidelines

The main rules regarding environmental monitoring are established in the Pollution Control Act. Section 49 of the act(3) deals with disclosure requirements and states that any person who causes pollution shall "provide the pollution control authority or other public bodies with any information necessary to enable them to carry out their tasks pursuant to this Act".

The main rules on the duty to perform environmental monitoring are further implemented in Sections 52, 53, 54, 55 and 56 of the Petroleum Activity Regulations.(4) These are one of the five main sets of health, safety and environment regulations applicable to petroleum activities. These contain general requirements, while guidelines provide more detailed instructions on how the requirements can best be met.

In addition to produced water, from time to time there are accidental discharges of oil as a result of petroleum activities. The total volume of accidental discharges in 2010 was 6,376 cubic metres, resulting from cuttings and drilling fluid from injectivity tests.(5) This prompted the establishment of new environmental guidelines. In October 2011 the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency released a report issuing new guidelines for offshore and environmental monitoring.(6)

Environmental monitoring of offshore petroleum activities is intended to provide an overview of environmental status and trends resulting from petroleum activities over a period of time. Operators on the Norwegian continental shelf are required to implement procedures for environmental monitoring in order to obtain information on the actual and potential environmental impact of their activities. Environmental monitoring of offshore oil and gas activities includes monitoring of the water column and of benthic habitats (ie, sediments and soft and hard-bottom fauna). The results will be used by operators and authorities as a source of information and as a basis for making decisions on new measures to be implemented offshore. The results will also be used to develop and report on national environmental indicators for the offshore oil and gas industry. To ensure that companies which are subject to environmental monitoring comply with their obligations, the authorities can carry out inspections and controls of the procedures for monitoring. As mentioned, the requirement for environmental monitoring on the Norwegian continental shelf is established in Section 49 of the Pollution Control Act. The guidelines will make the process of establishing new monitoring procedures more efficient. The legislature can provide more flexibility to the process if changes are needed. The guidelines will presumably make it easier for parties to comply with such compulsory measures.

For further information on this topic please contact Eivind Aarnes Nilsen or Dag Erlend Henriksen at Arntzen de Besche Advokatfirma AS by telephone (+47 23 89 40 00), fax (+47 23 89 40 01) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).


(1) The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate – Oil and gas industry emissions and discharges 2010.

(2) Id.

(3) Id.

(4) Regulations relating to conducting petroleum activities 613 (April 29 2010).