ReFINE report shows that UK’s onshore oil and gas industry has the highest levels of well integrity and environmental protection

25 March 2014

UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, today welcomes many of the recommendations of the report published by ReFINE and Durham University. The industry also welcomes the findings that the UK has among the highest levels of well integrity and environmental protection in the world.

The recommendations make a useful contribution to the debate around ensuring that the UK has the best in class regulation of its oil and gas industry as it enters an important era with the development of the extensive shale gas deposits under this country.

In particular UKOOG welcomes the recommendations by ReFINE on these areas:

  • Monitoring soils above well sites
  • Monitoring abandoned wells
  • Ensuring transparency of ownership and liability.

The report today highlights the very low rate of issues with respect to operational wells in the UK and this underlines the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime. The report highlights the importance of well integrity which is a key plank of our regulatory focus and also highlights the need to monitor wells during and post operations. We are in the process of agreeing with Government monitoring procedures and post abandonment procedures for shale wells as recommended in the report. In our UKOOG guidelines, which have been agreed by all members, the principles of monitoring and transparency are already enshrined.

UKOOG notes that the report highlights that there has been only one instance of recorded well integrity failure out of 143 wells active in the UK since 2000. This failure was picked up through monitoring and remediated. This is an exemplary record, and shows why the UK oil and gas industry has the highest standards of both operation and regulation in the world.

The report notes that 2152 wells have been drilled in the UK since 1902 and of these only 50-100 are “orphaned”, in that the company that operated that well is in no position to maintain it. Though this is a small fraction of activity, especially compared with the thousands of orphaned mines in the UK, the industry has taken steps to ensure no existing or future wells can be orphaned.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: “ReFINE’s extensive study into the onshore oil and gas activity around the world should give great reassurance about the quality of operations and regulation in the UK onshore oil and gas industry. It is important to note that ReFINE’s research focuses on historical records and studies. The industry and its practices are constantly improving with experience and technology as required by regulation. It is this continuous goal setting rather than a prescriptive approach that makes regulation in this country so admired by others around the world.”