Digital signatures for UK Oil Portal

The DTI is at the cutting edge of e-government with digitally signed offshore operations approvals.

The UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – is planning to issue ‘digitally signed’ environmental consents and notices. The DTI intends to make all of its offshore oil and gas consents processes electronic through the UK Oil Portal and is working with BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and the UK Offshore Operators Association to streamline the new procedures.


The process involved consultations with HM Treasury and the UK Government’s ‘e-Envoy’ to get clearance from lawyers. Prior to any deployment the entire process will be audited to ensure compliance with legislation and all relevant standards.


The DTI recently ran a pilot exercise to determine the best way to deliver consents and notices from the UK Oil Portal for environmental activities. Three areas require authentication—the process needs to verify that the right person is logged onto the Portal; only ‘legal’ documents can be exported from the Portal, and documents received via email must come from a known source. These requirements will thus satisfy the 2000 Electronic Communications and the British Standard PD0008 for legally admissible evidence.


The DTI Pilot leveraged technology from Identrus – a global trust systems established and used by an international group of banks and financial institutions. Identrus participants serve as Certificate Authorities or Registration Authorities, establishing the identities of their corporate customers and certifying them as trusted trading partners on the Internet by issuing unique digital IDs to their customers. A global public key infrastructure (PKI) makes such transactions ‘virtually impossible’ to falsify.

Test drive

The DTI were kind enough to let us test drive the online submission system. We logged on and within a few minutes had completed our own, digitally signed pdf (xml is another option) PON15B—by choosing from a pick list of environmentally sensitive muds and chemicals. The certificates are to be issued in accordance with a set of Trust Rules currently being drawn up in consultation with UKOOA.

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