Indicator Fact Sheet

EN14 Discharge of oil from refineries and offshore installations

Indicator Fact Sheet
Prod-ID: IND-136-en
  Also known as: ENER 014
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This page was archived on 08 May 2015 with reason: No more updates will be done

Assessment made on  01 Nov 2008

Generic metadata



DPSIR: Driving force


Indicator codes
  • ENER 014

Policy issue:  Is the use and production of energy having a decreasing impact on the environment?


Key assessment

Oil discharges from offshore installations (Figure 1) and refineries (Figure 2) have been decreasing significantly since the 1980s. Overall inputs of oil from the offshore oil and gas sector have decreased by 49 % between 1990 and 2004 (similar to last assessment of 1990-2002) and the quantity of oil discharged by refineries decreased by 78 % between 1990 and 2000. These figures indicate a similar trend to the one reported by OSPAR (2000) for the period 1985-1997, stating that the decrease of oil inputs from the offshore oil and gas sector was reported to be over 60 % and that from the refineries more than 90 %, albeit at a slower rate.

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 (although from 2000 there is a slight decrease) There was a reported increase of 38 % between 1992-2002, while oil discharges from offshore installations in Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Norway decreased by 37% over the same period (similar to last assessment of 1990-2002). 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 succeeded in sustaining the decreasing trends (OSPAR Commission, 2003).

Despite the one-off increase of oil discharges from offshore installations in 1997, which was mainly due to an exceptional accidental spillage, 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 in 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.

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