Indicator Assessment

Discharges of oil from refineries and offshore installations

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-136-en
Published 05 Jul 2010 Last modified 19 Jan 2022
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Oil discharges from offshore installations and coastal refineries in the EU decreased between 1990 and 2004 the former and 1990-2002 the later, despite an increase in oil production. This is mainly due to the increased application of cleaning and separation technologies.

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Oil production and discharges from offshore oil installations in north-east Atlantic

Note: Data for discharges is available only from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Norway; hence coverage is restricted to the north-east Atlantic; no data for 1991 and 1993

Data source:

OSPAR 2007, Eurostat, 2008

Refinery discharges and throughput in Europe (EU-15 +Norway)

Note: Data for discharges is available only from EU-15 and NO; the number of refineries reporting data in 2000 was 20% less than those in 1997

Data source:


Oil discharges from refineries and offshore installations have decreased significantly since the 1980s. Overall discharges of oil from the offshore oil and gas sector fell by 49 % between 1990 and 2004, and the quantity of oil discharged by refineries decreased by 78 % between 1990 and 2000.

Reductions in oil discharges have been achieved despite increased production and ageing of many major oil fields. Production from offshore installations increased by 27% between 1992 and 2004. Oil discharges from offshore installations in Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Norway decreased by 37% between 1992 and 2002. The main reason for this lies in the measures introduced under the Offshore Strategy (Offshore Oil and Gas Strategy, see policy context section), which have helped containing the amount of oil spilt (OSPAR Commission, 2003).

It is likely that a further reduction of oil discharges will continue in the future. This will be supported by a new regulation on drill cuttings (OSPAR Decision 2000) that entered into force in 2000. The post 2000 trend seems to justify such optimism.

Oil discharges from refineries are small compared with discharges of the offshore industry and are decreasing at a faster rate. While in 1990 refineries accounted for 16 % of oil discharges from refineries and offshore installations together, they contributed only 7 % in 2000. In the NE Atlantic, refineries are located mainly in coastal areas or on large rivers where they can have a localised impact. Refinery effluents are a source of oil and other substances (but in general there has been a large reduction in discharged oil due to rationalisation and technical improvements in this sector). Between 1990 and 2000, the total refinery throughput across the EU increased by 2.5 %, while discharges decreased by 77 %. The improvement is reflected by OSPAR's conclusion to cease regular surveys on refineries because of the reduction in their discharges. The European Pollutant Emission Register might subsequently undertake this role.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

No definition has been specified


No units have been specified


Policy context and targets

Context description

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No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

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Methodology for indicator calculation

No methodology for indicator calculation has been specified

Methodology for gap filling

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Methodology references

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Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

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Rationale uncertainty

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Data sources

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Other info

Typology: N/A
Indicator codes
  • ENER 014
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Filed under: energy
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