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RNNP 2010: major challenges in important areas

The 2010 study of trends in risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activity (RNNP) shows a sharp rise in well control incidents and gas leaks back at a high level. Magne Ognedal, director-general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), describes this as a matter of concern.

* The RNNP study occupies an important place in the industry by contributing to a unified understanding of trends in risk level among companies, employees and government.

* Its results are presented in annual reports, and the latest of these documents is the 11th in the series.

* Moreover, this is the fifth year to include data gathered from the land-based plants.

* The survey was extended in 2010 to cover trends in the risk of acute discharges on the NCS. The 2010 figures on acute discharges will be published this autumn.

Leak rates
Hydrocarbon leaks are categorised for the RNNP report in three groups based on the rate of escape: more than 10 kg/s, 1-10 kg/s and 0.1-1 kg/s.

Even a gas leak with the lowest registered leak rate – 0.1 kg/s – has a substantial accident potential.

Web-tv: Watch the PSA's press conference (In Norwegian)

The Norwegian petroleum industry has paid great attention over the past decade to reducing the number of hydrocarbon leaks, and has established clear reduction targets on several occasions.

A goal of no more than 20 leaks above 0.1 kilograms per second in any one year was reached in 2005, and that maximum had been halved by 2007. Since then, however, the trend has been in the wrong direction, with 14 leaks in 2009, 15 in 2009 and 14 in 2010.

Leaks in the 0.1-1 kg/s category showed a particular rise in 2010, while one leak greater than 10 kg/s was registered during the year.

“A more purposeful and not least continuous effort is required to change this trend,” affirms Mr Ognedal.

Gas leaks have a big potential for causing damage because of the danger that an explosion will occur as the gas cloud spreads.

Well control
The indicator for well control incidents showed a generally positive trend up to 2008, but rose from 11 in that year to 28 in 2010.

Even when the number of occurrences is correlated with the level of activity – in other words, the number of wells drilled – the increase is clear.

“It’s very important that the industry comes up with good measures for reversing this development,” Mr Ognedal emphasises.

The PSA has asked the industry to get to grips with the challenges presented by hydrocarbon leaks and well control incidents.
It wants the companies to come up with specific measures which can help to ensure that developments move in the right direction (link).

Viewed overall, the conclusions from the RNNP survey show a slightly negative movement in the risk picture during 2010.

The total indicator for major accidents on both fixed installations and mobile units has flattened out over the past five-six years.

“Our goal is continuous improvement,” Mr Ognedal notes. “It’s a matter of concern that the major accident indicator isn’t moving in a positive direction.”

But the RNNP 2010 report also presents a number of positive development trends.

There were no fatal accidents on the NCS during the year.

The serious personal injury frequency has also developed positively in recent years, and now stands at 0.68 per million working hours for the whole NCS. That is significantly below the average for the previous 10-year period.

A positive trend was also recorded for the number of ships on collision course, which was significantly lower than the mean value for 2002-09.

In addition, the indicator for the most serious helicopter incidents moved in the right direction from 2009 to last year.

And a marginal improvement was seen during 2010 in the indicator for exposure to noise.

“The noise problem has been on the agenda for a number of years, and we had undoubtedly expected even greater progress in this area than has been the case so far,” says Mr Ognedal.

“However, we’ve noted that the industry is now launching a dedicated project to overcome the challenges posed by noise. That’s good news.”

On land
With effect from 2006, measurements of the risk level in Norwegian petroleum operations were extended to the industry’s land-based plants.

Eight hydrocarbon leaks which did not ignite were reported from these facilities in 2010, on a par with the year before and significantly lower than the 21 recorded in 2008. No leaks which ignited occurred in 2010.

Nine serious personal injuries were reported in 2010, compared with 11 in 2009. Working hours came to 12.4 million, down from 14.3 million the year before.

The total serious personal injury frequency for the land-based plants was 0.73 per million working hours in 2010.

RNNP in brief
The RNNP process was initiated in 1999-2000 to develop and apply a tool for measuring trends in risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activity.

This work has acquired an important position in Norway’s oil and gas industry because it contributes to a shared understanding of risk developments by everyone involved.

The RNNP process monitors risk trends with the aid of various methods, such as incident indicators, barrier data, interviews with key informants, working seminars and field work. A major questionnaire-based survey is also conducted every two years.

Results from these studies are presented in annual reports, which also provide the basis for taking action to combat a negative trend.