EU plans to tighten rules on offshore oil drilling

The European Commission will propose tougher rules on offshore oil and gas drilling in the first half of 2011, but will not demand a temporary halt to new drilling operations, the EU’s energy chief said yesterday.

The plans are intended to guard against a repeat of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and led to the worst oil spill in US history.

After BP’s spill, the Commission floated the idea of a moratorium on new deep water drilling operations until the exact causes of the disaster had been fully investigated, but has since softened its stance.

The new rules would introduce stricter licensing regimes and require drilling companies to prove they can cover the full cost of any future accidents, possibly through insurance schemes, the Commission said.

“We will hopefully in spring of next year be able to make the relevant proposals for legislation,” said EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, adding that any plans would need to be approved by EU governments and lawmakers. The new rules could require companies to build up cash reserves to cover at least part of the cost of future clean-up operations.