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The PSA's final report on the Deepwater Horizon incident

Four years after Deepwater Horizon (DwH), the PSA sees visible improvements in Norway on the key lessons from this incident. But the acid test is whether these effects are lasting.


Photo of Hilde-Karin Østnes
Hilde-Karin Østnes headed both phases of the DwH project

An uncontrolled blowout on the Macondo field caused a big explosion and fire, which killed 11 of the people on board and injured many more.

The rig sank after two days, but oil continued to gush from the well for a long time. More than four million barrels escaped before the leak was halted after 87 days.

A final report was completed by the PSA in January concerning the rig disaster, which took place in the US Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010.

The PSA established a cross-disciplinary internal project team in May 2010 to follow up the incident and look at possible changes to Norwegian regulations in the wake of the disaster. The project fell into two phases.

First report
The first report was published in June 2011 as Summary report from the PSA - Assessments and recommendations for the Norwegian petroleum industry

Its recommendations were grouped under three main headings:

In addition to the three main subjects, the report also addressed such challenges as blowout preventers (BOPs), and capping and containment.

Final report
A final report has now been presented by the PSA to sum up and describe the status of the work.

Final report: The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway’s concluding report on its follow-up of the Deepwater Horizon accident

The key question is what has been done in the defined areas over the past two-three years.

 “Many examples show that the industry has become more conscious of factors which could lead to a major accident,” says Hilde-Karin Østnes, who headed the DwH project. “Its knowledge of risk management and barriers has increased.”

“We and the industry have taken a number of post-DwH initiatives within the three areas where follow-up work was identified as especially important.

“Both our own project and similar activities within the petroleum sector have influenced the industry to move in the right direction.

“So our summation in most areas is positive overall – even though challenges remain. Most of the work still to be done relates to further development of BOPs.”

She notes that a number of the PSA’s recommendations in 2011 were intended to focus attention on the challenges which must be assessed and dealt with on a regular basis. They cannot therefore be signed off in any way but must form part of the industry’s continuous efforts to improve, Østnes emphasises.

“Measures initiated after the 2010 incident must be followed up and evaluated continuously both by us and industry, so that they can form the basis for new initiatives and even greater awareness of what we’ve learnt.”

Priorities
"All the action points from the DwH report are incorporated in our four main priorities for 2004,”says Østnes, who has headed both phases of the DwH project.

“We’ll therefore follow up the industry in all the defined areas both right away and in the medium term – and then reassess where we stand.

“The aim will be to determine whether the measures have a lasting effect, using such instruments as the annual RNNP process and our supervisory activities.

“Knowledge about the factors which caused the incident are also being incorporated in work we’re leading on the regulations, with contributions from companies and unions.”

Some of the lessons learnt have already been implemented in the regulations, she reports, while the PSA still working on other conditions.

“We’ve also benefitted greatly as a regulator both from our own work and from the projects pursued by the industry in the wake of DwH,” Østnes adds.

“The analysis of incidents and factors which played a contributory role has helped to increase awareness of the Norwegian model and the government’s role in this.

“We see that the Norwegian regime can survive a critical look. Regulatory arrangements, the division of responsibilities in the industry and collaboration between companies, unions and government come across as good and logical principles - and important tools for further development of safety.”