A public consultation is underway on proposed legislation to improve the safety of offshore oil and gas operations.

Interested parties have until 29 September to submit their suggestions and comments on the proposals to the Ministry of Energy.

The draft ordinance would implement EU law (Directive 2013/30) in Bulgaria’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea by:

  • preventing and limiting the consequences of major accidents during offshore operations to prospect for, explore and produce oil and natural gas
  • improving the protection of the marine environment and inshore zones
  • specifying the requirements and conditions for safe prospecting and exploration for and production of underground resources
  • trying to prevent possible future disturbances to energy production within the EU
  • prescribing certain methods of response in case of an accident.

The draft contains a few areas of concern for existing and future operators, including:

  • the appointment of more than one competent authority to oversee the safety measures, which could create sluggish administrative interaction between operators and administrative bodies
  • the lack of a clear distinction between the responsibilities of licence holders, operators and owners of installations
  • a lack of clarity whether the legislation will apply only to exploration drilling or production installations and not to any types of exploration installation (such as seismic vessels)
  • some unclear wording about the recovery of the competent authorities’ costs incurred in relation to their exercise of powers under the ordinance.

The ordinance is expected to have a quick passage into law once the consultation finishes, and will come into force on the day it is published in the State Gazette. It will then apply to all licence holders or operators, or owners of already-planned production facilities as at 19 July 2016. It is intended to apply to existing facilities and connected infrastructure from the scheduled date for regulatory overview of the documents regarding the risks, but in any event no later than 19 July 2018.