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Energy and environment

Hydrocarbons BREF


The Hydrocarbons BREF (Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference document) will summarize BAT already applied under economically viable conditions in the Hydrocarbons sector and, as such, help the sector share a common understanding of high-level performance. This BREF is an opportunity to set out a level, predictable and transparent playing field for oil and gas activities; to help address public concerns on domestic oil and gas production; to facilitate dialogue with and among competent authorities. 


The BREF will be developed through an exchange of information between Member States, the industries concerned and non-governmental organisations promoting environmental protection.

This type of information exchange process has been proven effective for drawing up the BREFs for other purposes, such as those established under the IPPC Directive 2008/1/EC, the Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EU and the Mining Waste Directive 2006/11/EC.


In its Communications on European energy security and on the exploration and production of Hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high volume hydraulic fracturing in the EU the Commission announced that it will organise an exchange of information to draw up a Best Available Techniques (BAT) reference document on Hydrocarbons exploration and extraction (BREF).

The Hydrocarbons BREF is not directly linked to the implementation of a particular Directive. Conclusions drawn from the information exchange will have no legally binding effect on Member States.

Proposed content of the Hydrocarbons BREF

The Hydrocarbons BREF will address the extractive oil and gas industry.  It will focus on the installations linked to actual wells i.e. the development and operation of the offshore facility or onshore well pad (including directly related activities such as onsite storage prior to distribution), but excluding delivery infrastructure such as pipelines. In this context, the BREF will focus on BAT to manage impacts of releases of pollutants and best risk management techniques to manage risks of releases of substances as a result of incidents for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment. 

Questions and Answers

Key events and next steps

August – September 2015: Activation of the Technical Working Group (TWG).  The TWG is the forum for the exchange of information to identify Best Available Techniques.

21 September 2015: The Background Paper to prepare the kick-off meeting was sent to the members of the Technical Working Group.

13-15 October 2015: Kick-off meeting of the TWG in Brussels.

At the Kick-off meeting good progress was made in identifying environmental issues to be the focus for onshore activities. However, there was widespread opinion in the TWG that many, if not all environmental issues for offshore activities were already covered by existing obligations and/or best available techniques based guidance and that a subgroup with a mandate to undertake a gap analysis should be created. TWG volunteers provided evidence on existing approaches. In order to structure the discussions in the subgroup, the Commission provided an initial assessment of the information submitted.

28 January 2016: Meeting of the subgroup to discuss the evidence submitted on existing guidance. The subgroup developed a set of 11 recommendations that were presented in a report to the TWG and were subsequently endorsed by the majority of TWG members in a written procedure.

26-28 October 2016: 2nd meeting of the TWG to discuss in more detail the upstream onshore and offshore exploration and production activities to be addressed in the Hydrocarbons BREF.


At the kick-off meeting the TWG advised the Commission to consider "Best Available Techniques (BAT) Guidance document" as working title for the expected final product of the exchange of information.  Whilst this title can be used in the title of documentation to be issued throughout the exchange of information, the shortened reference to Hydrocarbons BREF has been used in both communication from TWG members and in all relevant Commission communications issued to date. A deletion of the reference to the Hydrocarbons BREF at this stage in the process would potentially be confusing to those following the process and so, in the interests of transparency, the reference to Hydrocarbons BREF will also be maintained. A final title will further be discussed at the final meeting of the TWG.