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Introduction & Background

In the UK Atlantic Margin oil province, oil industry operators and government saw the opportunity to take a co-ordinated, strategic approach to environmental management. This novel and ground-breaking initiative is now setting the trend for other emerging oil provinces.

All oil companies operating in the area are:

  • Working together.

  • Working with the government and regulatory authorities.

  • Working with the academic research community.

  • Developing a dialogue with local communities and interested parties.

  • Taking a co-ordinated, strategic approach to environmental management in the region by:
    • Describing and understanding the existing environment
    • Identifying key sensitivities
    • Monitoring and developing protection measures

The Atlantic Margin

How has this been carried out?

  • In 1994, recognising that the environmental issues facing the industry in the Atlantic Margin are common for each operator, a working group comprised of 8 operators was established. This was known as the West of Shetland Group. Following the 16th offshore licensing round, membership increased to 14 operators, and in 1995 it became one of the networks within an Atlantic Margin Joint Industry Group (AMJIG) - known as the Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN). After the 17th licence round in 1997 the AMJIG operator membership rose to 21 - but AFEN also includes as full members, DTI, SEERAD (the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department) and JNCC. Due to changes within the Industry, membership of AFEN now stands at 15 and AFEN has become more closely associated with UKOOA.

  • AFEN has been an effective originator and focus for a range of regional studies. The objective of the network is to understand the environment better and to establish an environmental baseline for the licensed area. The regional programme is carried out in parallel with individual operators' more localised studies of drilling or development sites. By adopting a joint approach to the whole area and by integrating both local and regional studies, much better data has been obtained with a much more efficient use of resources.

  • Through its direct membership of AFEN, Government has been closely involved in guiding the work. The contractors carrying out the studies have also included component groups of the National Environmental Research Council (NERC)), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

  • To ensure that the results of the studies reach as broad an audience as possible and also, equally, that AFEN is addressing matters of importance to local communities near the Atlantic Margin, a consultative forum was established in 1995. Known as the Atlantic Frontier Environmental Forum (AFEF) it has an independent Chairman and has representatives from local authorities, wildlife and other conservation bodies, central government and government agencies, academia and the offshore oil and gas industry via AFEN.

  • The four main areas of study (seabed, cetaceans, seabirds, coastal protection) which AFEN initiated and continues to support are explained in the following sections.

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