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Dialogue Opens On Seabed Cuttings

Monday 9 November 1998

Dialogue Opens On Seabed Cuttings

A wide range of interested parties, including environmentalists, academics, fishermen, regulators, government and oil industry representatives, will meet in London on

13 November 1998 to debate how best to deal with drill cuttings on the seabed a legacy of early offshore oil and gas exploration and production activity.

The seminar is a key step in the initiative launched in June this year by the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) which set up an industry Task Force to deal with cuttings. The Task Forces aim is to implement a technical and scientific programme of research and development while at the same time, engaging in a broadly based stakeholder dialogue to identify acceptable and practical solutions.

Eric Faulds of the UKOOA Drill Cuttings Task Force said: The seminar will initiate our dialogue with the key stakeholders as selected by The Environment Council, the independent UK charity managing the consultative process on our behalf. We expect around 40 delegates from Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the UK, bringing together what we hope will be a broad range of views on this highly complex technical and environmental issue.

Drill cuttings are the by-product which emerges when wells are drilled through subterranean rock to reach oil and gas reservoirs below. Varying in size from small rock chips like gravel to fine sand, they accumulate on the seabed below offshore platforms and are known to contain traces of lubricants used in drilling operations.

Currently there is no proven technology for dealing with these old cuttings and there is concern that without the development of new environmentally acceptable removal techniques, trying to move them could cause more environmental harm than leaving them in place. Similarly, little is known about the possibilities of cleaning or treating cuttings in place on the seabed.

Since the launch of the Industry initiative, the Industry has moved swiftly ahead to commission new research into the extent and scope of the drill cuttings issue. Cordah, the Aberdeen-based environmental consultancy, has produced a report gathering together all known information about cuttings deposits, which complements earlier studies identifying potential solutions by Norwegian scientists Rogaland Research.

The findings of these reports will be used to initiate debate at this weeks seminar, which has the following objectives:

*To identify and discuss the issues and challenges from a variety of perspectives

* To identify the gaps in our understanding of those issues

* To assist in developing criteria for selecting research and development topics

The Industry will then use the outcome of the seminar to guide its plans for further research and the development of solutions.

NOTE TO EDITORS

 The Drill Cutting Seminar is a closed session for invited delegates only (as selected by the Environment Council). Eric Faulds will be available for interview during Tuesday, 11th and Wednesday, 12th November.

The Environment Council will publish the seminar proceedings in a report due in the New Year.

 Fact Sheet attached: Key Facts: Drilling, Muds and Cuttings.

 The UKOOA Drill Cuttings Task Force was set up in June 1998 with the objective of identifying the best environmental practice and the best available techniques in accordance with the principles set out by the OSPAR Convention. It is hoped that the initiative will provide helpful insights for the next international discussions on drill cuttings, to be held in February 1999 by the Sea Based Activities group of OSPAR.

 UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) is the representative organisation for the UK offshore oil and gas industry. Its 35 members are companies licensed by the Government to explore for and produce oil and gas in UK waters.

 The Environment Council is a unique charity mandated to raise awareness of environmental issues, to enhance understanding of the implications of sustainable development issues for decision making and build sustainable solutions. One of the methods is the use of constructive managed dialogue with all stakeholders.

* OSPAR is the Oslo and Paris Conventions governing all aspects of marine pollution in the North East Atlantic region.

* An Executive Summary of the report Disposal of Oil-Based Cuttings by independent Norwegian research institute RF Rogaland Research may be obtained from the UKOOA Communication Team on 0171 802 2422/2400. Alternatively, visit the Institutes website: http://www.rf.no.

For more information, please call 020 7802 2400.