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The main picture in the “Trends in risk level in the petroleum activity - Acute spills” (RNNP-AU) report shows progress in the period 2001-2017 in some areas, but there is a continuing need for a focus on accident prevention and barriers to prevent acute spills.

The RNNP AU report shows that the number of incidents of acute crude oil spills has fallen over the period 2001-2017. The same is true of near-misses that could have led to acute pollution.  Since 2013, we are seeing an increasing trend in the number of near-misses. Well control incidents in the North Sea have particularly contributed to this development.

“The positive trend in the number of incidents and near-misses is not reflected in assessments of the degree of severity. Accordingly, there is still a need to evaluate the effect of the barriers in terms of preventing acute crude oil spills and staunching the development of incidents", says Finn Carlsen, technical director at the PSA.

Subsea facilities
The number of subsea solutions is increasing in line with new developments on the NCS.

In 2017, five hydrocarbon leaks from subsea facilities such as pipelines, wellstream pipes, and well templates were recorded. This is the highest number of incidents recorded since 2006.

The PSA investigated the hydrocarbon leak from the well template that occurred on 10 May 2017 at Åsgard A.

"This area warrants greater attention. It is important to reduce uncertainty concerning acute spills from subsea facilities, and the companies must clarify how they are working on continuous improvements in respect of this type of incident", says Carlsen.

Incidents involving chemical spills account for 80 per cent of all the acute spills in the petroleum activities on the NCS. Approximately one-quarter of the chemical incidents have a spill volume greater than one cubic metre. Within chemical spills, there was no positive trend in the period 2001-2017.

"We need to ask whether, in general, sufficient attention is paid to the risk of acute chemical spills and whether barriers to prevent and stop such incidents are adequately monitored", says Carlsen.

Barents Sea
During the period 2013-2017, there has been much activity in the Barents Sea compared to previous years. The data from RNNP AU is currently insufficient to indicate trends over time for this sea area or for comparison with other sea areas. However, the data provides no grounds for assuming that the situation in the Barents Sea is different from elsewhere on the NCS.

"There is obviously good reason to focus attention on accident prevention and barriers for preventing acute pollution in the Barents Sea. There is also a need to identify which may be area-specific challenges and which are more general ones", says Carlsen.