The Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Act, 2010 makes provision for the safety of petroleum exploration and extraction (upstream) activities and associated infrastructure to be regulated by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). It provides that the regulation of upstream safety will be achieved through the establishment and implementation of a new risk assessment based Framework in line with best industry practice.
I understand that as part of its initial planning and scoping for the establishment of the new Safety Framework, the reports referenced by the Deputy were produced. These reports, i.e. Report on the Existing Legislative and Regulatory Framework for Petroleum Exploration and Extraction in Ireland; and Review and Comparison of International Petroleum Safety Regulatory Regimes were undertaken by consultants GL Noble Denton on behalf of the CER.
While the specifics on how unconventional gas exploration and extraction were not explicitly addressed in the above documents, neither were the specifics with regard to any other petroleum activity to be regulated by the CER. It was never the intention I understand to cover the detail on how specific petroleum exploration and extraction activities are regulated in Ireland or the comparator countries in these reports. The reports simply set out the broad legislative and regulatory approach to the regulation of petroleum activities, thereby providing the background information to enable the CER to begin its work on the consulting on the Petroleum Safety Framework itself.
The CER published its consultation paper on the High Level Design of the Petroleum Safety Framework in August 2011, and hopes I understand, to publish its draft decision in this regard shortly. As exploration drilling and extraction are likely to be designated by CER as petroleum activities, unconventional gas exploration and extraction would fall to be regulated under the Petroleum Safety Framework by the CER from a safety perspective.