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What preliminary environmental authorisations are required before commencing oil and gas-related activities?
In general, the Pollution Control Act applies to all petroleum activities. Thus, a licensee must adhere to the Pollution Control Regime and apply for relevant approvals (eg, discharges to water, air or seabed) under this regime.
The production licence may stipulate certain conditions relating to the exploration activities in the licence area (eg, stipulating a period where collecting seismic materials is prohibited due to fish spawning seasons or other conditions).
Before commencement of any exploration drilling, the licensee must obtain a drilling permit from the Petroleum Directorate and an environmental permit from the Environment Agency.
All production activities (including treatment and processing liquefaction) require a discharge permit issued by the Environment Agency.
What environmental protection requirements apply to the operation of oil and gas facilities?
Five core petroleum-specific health, safety and environment regulations are issued pursuant to the Pollution Control Act.
In addition to health, safety and working environment aspects, the regulations also cover a combination of functional and goal-oriented requirements, as well as more specific requirements on protection of the natural environment, including monitoring the natural environment (eg, effects on water column and seabed, limitations on discharges to air, sea and seabed, and waste handling).
Licensees are required to obtain a discharge permit before commencing exploration drilling, production activities and processing, which will set out pollution discharge limits and waste handling procedures.
In connection with development plans and decommissioning plans, the licensee must conduct comprehensive environmental impact assessments.
Additional environmental regulation applying to petroleum activities is covered by the Product Control Act, the Biodiversity Act and the Planning and Building Act.
What are the consequences of failure to adhere to the relevant environmental regulations and to what extent can operators be held liable for environmental damage?
The Environment Agency and other relevant petroleum sector authorities may issue orders to redress any violation of regulations and may also initiate measures to the same effect at the expense of the licensee. The agency may further stipulate day fines.
Suspension of activities and ultimate revocation of the production licence may be the consequence of breach of environmental regulations. Any liability for injury and damages resulting from such breach of environmental standards will remain on the licensee.
Both the Petroleum Act and the Pollution Control Act stipulate criminal liability for wilful or negligent violation of regulations or conditions stipulated therein.
The Petroleum Act specifically regulates a licensee's liability for pollution damages, which is defined as damage or loss caused by pollution as a consequence of effluence or discharge of petroleum from a facility.
Licensees are liable for pollution damage without regard to fault. Generally, licensees are jointly and severally liable for all obligations related to the petroleum activities, but the Petroleum Act includes specific rules regulating the claims and recourse procedure with regard to pollution damage. The Petroleum Act also includes special rules relating to compensation to Norwegian fishermen.
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