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The environmental responsibility of oil companies in France

Like all human activities, the exploration and production of hydrocarbons can present impacts and potential risks for people and the environment.  Such an activity can only be maintained and developed in France if these impacts are avoided, controlled and reduced. 

 It is the first of the responsibilities of locally engaged companies to live in harmony with the communities where they operate – and where their employees and their families live. 

A strictly supervised activity

Exploration and production of oil and gas is rigorously supervised in France, through some of the most demanding regulations in the world.

While the exploitation of hydrocarbons in France is prohibited in the national parks and natural reserves, it remains compatible with the establishment of regulated zones such as classified sites, Natura 2000 sites or the regional natural parks, as long as the impacts are not likely to compromise the preservation of protected areas and habitats. For more than 60 years, French hydrocarbon facilities have coexisted with remarkable natural environments.

The regulatory texts governing research and production of oil in France

Thirty-six regulatory texts, including eight directives aimed at protecting the environment, are applicable in Europe to the exploitation of hydrocarbons, guidelines on water, ambient air quality, groundwater, habitat and birds, Seveso III, EIA, REACH, BAT (Best Available Techniques), and constitution of the Natura 2000 network. 

Here is an example of the most important regulations in force in France: 

  • The Mining Code governs the granting of titles and the authorization to open the works: any seismic, underground or excavation work exceeding 10 meters deep requires a declaration to the competent public authority. All new drilling is subject to a prefectural authorization with an envionmental impact study and public inquiry. 
  • The General Regulation of Extractive Industries (RGIE) supervises the prevention of risks that may be faced by workers or drilling operations. Well architecture, among others, must meet the highest standards. 
  • The Environmental Code contains numerous provisions relating to pipelines, mining operations, natural and protected areas. It also sets the regulation of Installations Classified for the Protection of the Environment (ICPE).

Other regulations include: 

  • Code of Town Planning and Heritage Code (legislation on preventive archeology) 
  • Common technical regulations (pipelines, pressure equipment, electrical equipment)

To have more information about regulations :

Mandatory steps in the life of an oil well

Les démarches administratives à réaliser dans la vie d’un puits pétrolier.

Engaged in a constant dialogue with the public authorities and those living near their sites, oil and gas companies conduct their activities with respect for French legislation, in particular the law of December 30, 2017 that ends the production of hydrocarbons in France by 2040. 

Source: Livret Blanc 2015 de l’UFIP


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