European Union energy chief Gunther Oettinger said yesterday the North Sea oil and gas industry was the inspiration behind a move by Brussels to improve safety rules offshore.
The EU’s energy commissioner was talking to the Press and Journal in advance of his speech at the annual dinner of the Aberdeen, Highlands and islands branch of the Energy Institute.
He also revealed that a new EU Offshore Authorities Group (EUOAG) would have a joint chairman based in Aberdeen.
EUOAG has been established to exchange experiences and expertise between national authorities and Brussels.
Steve Walker, head of offshore safety at the Health and Safety Executive, has been named as a joint chairman of the new body.
Mr Oettinger’s comments come just a week after an EU agreement on the safety of offshore oil and gas activities.
The European Commission wanted to introduce blanket rules for the industry in the EU.
Britain was among nations which successfully campaigned for a directive, meaning nations can integrate new rules with domestic legislation, instead of a regulation which would apply to all 27 EU members.
There were widespread fears that a one-size-fits-all approach could have lowered standards in the North Sea.
Mr Oettinger said the UK’s experience of the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, which claimed 167 lives, had led to a groundbreaking regime that had inspired the recent EU move.
He added that new rules being introduced under the directive would make sure that the highest safety standards – “much as you benefit from in the UK” – would be followed at every installation in waters throughout the EU.
In his speech last night, Mr Oettinger said Scotland could become a renewable-energy powerhouse in Europe.
He added: “Scotland’s offshore renewables reserves alone have been estimated at over 200 gigawatts (GW).
“Today, we hardly see the tip of the iceberg; around 5GW. In Scotland, more than half of your electricity comes from renewable energy. Few countries elsewhere can even dream of this.”
Former chancellor Alistair Darling warned guests at the dinner, held in the Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen, about the risks to the North Sea industry from Scottish independence.
The Edinburgh South-west MP said the renewables sector north of the border relied on UK Government subsidies and Westminster’s support was also key in helping oil and gas firms to meet the cost of decommissioning.
Maersk Oil chief executive Jakob Thomasen told guests the oil and gas industry needed an environment that provided fiscal and regulatory stability.