A Methodology for Measuring Sectoral Sustainable Development (MSECSD) and its application to the UK oil and gas sector

Funded by: EPSRC (Sustainable Technologies Initiative/LINK Programme)


April 2003 to March 2005

PSI researchers:

Robin Vanner

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

The overall objective of the study is to develop a generic sustainable development methodology that can be applied both to the oil and gas industry and to other regions or sectors – and thus be of wider public benefit.   This methodology will be based on an analysis of material and energy flows and their related costs down the value chain, coupled with an environmental impact and sustainability analysis based on no-harm thresholds.   In pursuit of this objective the project will also seek to provide insights and tools for cost effective improvements in the environmental and social performance of industry.  The project design incorporates dissemination workshops to allow valuable conclusions to be disseminated within the UKOOA companies and where relevant to other sectors. 

Project Design

In developing the overall methodology, the project will develop a broad understanding of the full range of environmental and social impacts of UKCS offshore operations.  From there, the study will be homing in on four topical issues, each of major significance:

  • Energy efficiency offshore: to develop an understanding of the industry’s use of energy offshore and thereby generate insights into potential efficiency measures and performance indicators
  • Produced water: to develop an understanding of the relation between reduction goals, costs and their wider environmental implications, and an understanding of the practical meaning of ‘no harm’ for this discharge stream
  • Decommissioning: to develop an understanding of the relationship between decommissioning options, costs and full cycle environmental impacts
  • Employment: to review initiatives on employment in the context of a mature industry in transition; to understand stakeholder issues and contribute to the development of a methodology for longer term skills forecasting.

The project has been through an in-depth planning process in which UKOOA and PSI jointly mapped out the scope of the project and determined how best to ensure success while minimising the burden of securing the data needed from a broad range of UKOOA member companies.  The project has now attracted funds from EPSRC under the DTI Sustainable Technologies Initiative ‘Link’ programme, which provides for collaborative research between industry and academic research institutions. 


The project has proven to be a huge success attracting significant attention from within the industry, and from the industry's various stakeholders. Working papers have been produced for all four industry issues and for the methodology which has been developed. All of these various papers will be available to download as they are finalised. The results and the methodology generated have been presented and discussed at a number of conferences and stakeholder events. The slides as presented at three of the industry's stakeholder events are available for download below:

Offshore Forum (Methodology) - January 24 2006 [Powerpoint]
Stakeholder dialogue (All) - April 19 2005 [Powerpoint]
Offshore Forum (Produced water) - February 8 2005 [Powerpoint]
Offshore Forum (Decommissioning) - December 8 2003 [Powerpoint]

A decision was taken early on in the study to pay particular attention to two of the issues which presently have particular policy relevance (decommissioning and produced water). These working papers are therefore particularly detailed and have already gone though extensive peer review by independent reviews selected by the research team. Summarised papers have also been submitted to various academic journals, and will undergo additional peer review by reviewers selected by the relevant editors.

Working Papers

Produced water - Working paper [pdf]
Decommissioning - Working paper [pdf]
Energy efficiency offshore - Working paper [pdf]
The social component - Working paper [pdf]

Prospective publications

Decommissioning [Paper submitted to the Journal of Environmental management]
Produced water [Paper submitted for a special edition of the Journal of Cleaner Production & the conference for the Society of Petroleum Engineers]
Methodology paper [Submitted to the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management]
Energy efficiency offshore [Paper to be submitted to Energy and the Environment Journal]

Additional reports

Final report on -A Methodology for Measuring Sectoral Sustainable Development (MSECSD) and its application to the UK oil and gas sector', 6-page report to the EPSRC [pdf]

For further information please contact Robin Vanner.