Offshore Petroleum Safety

Offshore petroleum safety describes offshore petroleum activities performed in a way that does not jeopardise the health and safety of people at or near an offshore petroleum facility.

In Australia, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has regulatory responsibility for occupational health and safety, structural integrity, environmental management, and day-to-day operations of offshore petroleum facilities in Commonwealth waters, and in coastal waters where state and Northern Territory powers have been conferred. NOPSEMA was established on 1 January 2012. Previously NOPSEMA was the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA), which was established in 2005.

NOPSEMA is responsible for regulating the safety of offshore petroleum activities through the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGSA) and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety) Regulations 2009. NOPSEMA operates on a full cost-recovery basis from industry, with fees and levies set under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Regulatory Levies) Act 2003.

These Acts provide a regulatory framework consisting of legislation and associated regulations that require the preparation and submission of a safety case for every offshore petroleum facility, and are underpinned by provisions for penalties and enforcement measures to ensure compliance.

In 1991, in response to the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea—a tripartite Consultative Committee on Safety in the Offshore Petroleum Industry—recommended that key outcomes of the United Kingdom Committee of Inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster chaired by Lord Cullen be implemented in Australia.

The implementation of these outcomes led to the adoption of a safety case regime in Australia, and to performance-based regulations replacing prescriptive safety rules in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 (PSLA).

In 1992, the PSLA was amended to establish legislation and regulations to require the preparation and submission of a safety case for every offshore petroleum facility.

In 2006, the PSLA was replaced by the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 (OPA).

In 2008, the OPA was replaced by the OPGGSA, with the addition of a system of offshore titles for the injection and storage of greenhouse gas substances in deep geological formations under the seabed.

Related pages

  • Review of Part 5 of the RMAR
    The Department is inviting public comment on a review of Part 5 of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Resources Management and Administration) Regulation 2011 (Part 5 of the RMAR). The objective of the review is to ensure the regulation of the integrity of offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage wells and well activities in Australian waters reflects leading practice, objective-based regulation.
  • Diving safety
    Under the Safety Regulations, divers who are involved in petroleum exploration, works or production are required to have Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme (ADAS) accreditation.
  • Offshore Petroleum Safety Regulation Inquiry and operational reviews of NOPSA
    The Offshore Petroleum Safety Inquiry was a joint independent inquiry into the effectiveness of regulation for upstream petroleum operations, announced by the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments on 9 January 2009. Operational Reviews of NOPSA have been undertaken every three years, in accordance with Section 695 of the OPGGSA. The first review of NOPSEMA (in 2014) will relate to the three-year period beginning 1 January 2012. Subsequent reviews will relate to successive five-year periods.
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