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Status and signals 2011-12: good results, but many challenges

The Norwegian petroleum industry found 2011 a good year for safety. But it faces major challenges and has launched extensive projects – including follow-ups to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

This article was published in the magazine "Safety - status and signals 2011-2012"

“We suffered no fatalities or major accidents in 2011, but several serious incidents show that efforts to improve and maintain the level of safety can’t be relaxed,” said Magne Ognedal, director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA).

He was speaking in connection with the presentation of the PSA’s annual report on Safety – Status and Signals ¬2011-2012 at a meeting with the industry on 14 February.

The PSA took the opportunity to assess the status of some of the most important issues it pursued in 2011, and to present the key challenges it sees for the industry in the coming year.

According to Mr Ognedal, the Norwegian petroleum industry now faces several crucial issues.

One question is whether major accidents, such as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the Montara blowout off Australia the year before, have prompted international companies involved on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) to centralise their overall management systems and work routines.

Is it the case that the management of these companies has been concentrated to a great extent at their head offices, without tailoring operations to established rules and principles in the specific countries in which they operate?

“We’ve received several worrying signals that this could be the case,” said Mr Ognedal.

The PSA has accordingly seen a need to emphasise the formal obligations resting on companies large and small which have a presence in Norway.

Read more: Responsibilities of operators and licensees

Another possible trend which has aroused concern at the PSA relates to the “tripartite” collaboration over safety between companies, unions and government.

“Some people believe that this cooperation has moved in the wrong direction,” said Mr Ognedal. “Such concerns must be listened to and taken seriously.

“It’s very important that collaboration between the three main sides functions well,” he added, and emphasised that cooperation of this kind must build on loyalty and mutual respect.

Read more: A question of respect

The PSA had a busy year in 2011 – perhaps the busiest in its history. Many demanding jobs and major projects, including the follow-up to Deepwater Horizon and Montara and work on the EU’s proposed overall regulation of offshore safety, will help to maintain this high level of activity in 2012.

In addition to the supervision of players and activities in the Norwegian petroleum sector, work in the wake of the recent major international accidents will continue to make its mark.

The final report from the PSA’s Deepwater Horizon project is likely to be published this year, after the key US investigations have been completed.

With many players and activities, the pace on the NCS remains high. Major new discoveries have been a fresh boost. Finds such as Skrugard and Havis are helping to shift attention further north.

The PSA knows a great deal today about the technical and operational challenges of petroleum operations on the northern NCS. Continuing to learn more about this region is important.

Within several defined areas, the PSA and the industry itself have taken the initiative to pursue major projects during 2012. The PSA has clear expectations for their results.

Contact information
Inger Anda, press spokesperson

E-mail: inger.anda@ptil.no | Telephone: +47 970 54 064

Øyvind Midttun, deputy press contact
Email Oyvind.Midttun@ptil.no | Telephone +47 51 87 66 48