The Norwegian petroleum industry is regulated through legislation and statutory regulations which specify that all key activities in every phase of oil and gas operations require permits, consents and approvals from the regulatory authorities.
This system helps to ensure good government administration and control of the industry, from exploration for petroleum deposits, through development and production, to cessation.
The Petroleum Act provides the legal authority for and establishes the overall framework of safety requirements in Norway’s petroleum sector. The Working Environment Act specifies the overall requirements for the working environment.
In addition come the Pollution Control Act, the Fire and Explosion Prevention Act and a number of statutes related to health.
More detailed regulatory requirements are provided by the special HSE regulations for the petroleum sector and the working environment regulations.
Authority has been delegated to the PSA to establish and enforce the following five sets of regulations:
- Framework HSE regulations
- Management regulations
- Activities regulations
- Facilities regulations
- Technical and operational regulations
Six joint regulations pursuant to the Working Environment Act have been established by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. They are enforced by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and the PSA in their respective jurisdictions.
Separate guidelines to the regulations indicate how compliance with the provisions in a regulation can be fulfilled. The regulations and the guidelines must be viewed jointly in order to obtain the best possible understanding of how the regulatory requirement is to be met.
In certain areas, the guidelines refer to industry standards as a recommended way of complying with the regulation’s requirements. The guidelines are not legally binding, and the players can therefore opt for other solutions.
If the responsible player chooses to take the recommended approach, it can normally assume that the regulatory requirements have been met. If other proposals are adopted, such as alternative standards or company-specific procedures, the player must be able to document that these are as good as, or better than, the recommended solution at fulfilling the requirements.
Read more about this regulatory principle in section 24 of the framework regulations on the use of recognised standards, with guidelines.
These regulations primarily comprise performance-based (functional) requirements, which specify which level of safety is to be achieved – but not how.
The companies are solely responsible for complying with Norway’s HSE legislation. But they also have the freedom to choose the best solutions for meeting the requirements.
Goals of the performance-based approach include avoiding detailed prescriptive rules and clarifying the responsibility of the players for finding solutions. That in turn ensures flexibility in choosing methods, approaches and technological advances.
The performance-based requirements emphasis that the individual company is responsible for planning and executing their activities in such a way that the safety targets are met.
The HSE regulations for the petroleum industry on land and offshore have been developed in close collaboration between the government, the companies and the unions.
They are updated annually by the PSA to ensure that their provisions are adapted to the challenges faced by the petroleum sector at any and all times.
A key place in this development work is played by the Regulatory Forum. Representatives for the unions, employers and government meet in this arena several times a year, and changes to the regulations are often initiated there.