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BRITAIN'S OFFSHORE OIL & GAS

*Sustainability


One of the key strategic themes for the offshore industry in recent years has been the desire to formulate an appropriate strategy regarding the principles of sustainability. An initial framework has been put in place. This was an important milestone for the industry. Sustainability is an integral part of the shared vision developed with Government during 1999 from the work of the Oil and Gas Industry Task Force (OGITF). Formulating a sustainable development strategy (F104) for the upstream oil and gas industry was a natural progression from that vision. In so doing, the industry took its first steps to define its interactions with, and responsibilities to, society at large and to articulate ideas of how to apply sustainability principles to the business.

F104: 'Striking a Balance' UKOOA's sustainable development strategy

Businesses today are much more than mere economic entities. Successful businesses generate jobs, create new technologies, return profits to shareholders and contribute to the economic health of the nation and, or course, the offshore industry aspires to that success. The offshore industry is part of and deeply intertwined with the wider world - a concept which is becoming increasingly clear as business becomes more global and the world seems to grow ever smaller. The success of the offshore industry depends on winning and keeping the trust and good will of many stakeholders - employees, suppliers, shareholders, end customers, communities and, ultimately, those with whom it shares this planet. Like any relationship, that requires good communication, mutual understanding, honest endeavour and recognition of shared benefits.

The oil and gas industry has brought many benefits to our lives. Its commodities underpin modern society, supplying energy to power industry and heat homes, fuel for transport to carry goods and people all over the world and the raw materials from which derive many items in everyday use (F105). The offshore industry employs hundreds of thousands of people and makes a major contribution to the UK economy. Yet, the industry is extractive in nature, focuses on a finite resource and produces a commodity that is increasingly viewed as a source of pollution. The industry's responsibility and challenge is to find a way to balance these considerable economic and social benefits with good stewardship of the world's natural resources and environmental care. That is the essence of the industry's contribution to sustainable development.

F105: By products of oil are used in everyday objects including plastics, pharmaceuticals and textiles

Development of the initial strategy involved subjecting the industry to some close scrutiny and identified certain challenges - how, for example, to align sustainability principles with an extractive industry; how to respond to the public perception that use of our products is environmentally damaging, and how to make our highly technical and financially complex business accessible to all our stakeholders. The industry has tried to address these challenges and discovered in the process that there is much which is already done well and will provide a platform for the performance improvements which the industry is committed to make. An extractive industry can indeed be managed according to sustainability principles. The industry has also taken some first steps towards examining the full life cycle impact of the materials produced, both to place this in its proper context of industrial activity and natural processes, and to improve performance.

In delivering the strategy the industry has made commitments to a range of actions which require targets to be set and performance measures to be devised to guide and validate planning and delivery. UK Offshore Operators Association's (UKOOA) diverse membership - 30 member companies with quite different operations, cultures and, sometimes, priorities - joined in what was a truly collaborative process to produce one of the first sectoral sustainability strategy documents in the UK. A broad consultation process involved employees, contractors and suppliers, Government, NGOs and the wider stakeholder community to gather broad ranging views on the concept of sustainability, what it means for the oil and gas industry and the industry's proposed actions.

Sustainable development is not about quick fixes, but requires striking the right balance for the long term. Since its beginning in the 1960s, the UK's oil and gas industry has adapted to many changes, continually remodelling itself to respond to the challenges of price volatility, dynamic global conditions, maturity and changing perceptions within society. It is a long term industry with a long life ahead. The strategy for upholding sustainability will develop over time, allowing the industry to map a way forward that is vital, clear, accountable and which strives to strike the right balance.

Examples of progress are many and varied. Improved technology means wells can be drilled more efficiently and are fewer in number; existing infrastructure is used to bring new reservoirs into production; drill cuttings are now routinely brought ashore to be recycled and re-used for example as cat litter or pathway surfacing; and the industry has given strong support to a workshop near Aberdeen where wood packing material from offshore is gathered and recycled, providing employment for a number of adults with learning disabilities (F107). One leading operator, with 19 installations in the proper context of industrial activity and natural processes, and to improve performance.

F106: The four strands of sustainability are closely bound together by commitment to delivery

In delivering the strategy the industry has made commitments to a range of actions which require targets to be set and performance measures to be devised to guide and validate planning and delivery. UK Offshore Operators Association's (UKOOA) diverse membership - 30 member companies with quite different operations, cultures and, sometimes, priorities - joined in what was a truly collaborative process to produce one of the first sectoral sustainability strategy documents in the UK. A broad consultation process involved employees, contractors and suppliers, Government, NGOs and the wider stakeholder community to gather broad ranging views on the concept of sustainability, what it means for the oil and gas industry and the industry's proposed actions.

Sustainable development is not about quick fixes, but requires striking the right balance for the long term. Since its beginning in the 1960s, the UK's oil and gas industry has adapted to many changes, continually remodelling itself to respond to the challenges of price volatility, dynamic global conditions, maturity and changing perceptions within society. It is a long term industry with a long life ahead. The strategy for upholding sustainability will develop over time, allowing the industry to map a way forward that is vital, clear, accountable and which strives to strike the right balance.

F107: 'Wood recyclability' community enterprise

Examples of progress are many and varied. Improved technology means wells can be drilled more efficiently and are fewer in number; existing infrastructure is used to bring new reservoirs into production; drill cuttings are now routinely brought ashore to be recycled and re-used for example as cat litter or pathway surfacing; and the industry has given strong support to a workshop near Aberdeen where wood packing material from offshore is gathered and recycled, providing employment for a number of adults with learning disabilities (F107). One leading operator, with 19 installations in the Northern and Central North Sea, now sorts and sends all of its domestic waste to an incinerator in Lerwick, Shetland. The incinerator, built to the latest European specification, is operated by Shetland Islands Council, and the energy generated by waste combustion is used to heat the local hospital, the sports centre and business and domestic premises.

Northern and Central North Sea, now sorts and sends all of its domestic waste to an incinerator in Lerwick, Shetland. The incinerator, built to the latest European specification, is operated by Shetland Islands Council, and the energy generated by waste combustion is used to heat the local hospital, the sports centre and business and domestic premises.



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