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Notice of order following the investigation of a work accident at the Sture terminal

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has completed its investigation of an incident at the Sture terminal on 12 October 2016, in which five people were exposed to hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas. The investigation identified serious breaches of the regulations. The PSA has given Statoil notice of an order.

The incident occurred in connection with work on an H2S reactor in the oily water treatment plant. Two operators, an apprentice and two work-experience pupils climbed to the top of the 14-metre-high H2S reactor to check its condition.

Toxic H2S flowed out through a venting valve on the top, and the people who had climbed up were exposed to the gas to varying degrees. Four of them eventually managed to get down by themselves, while the fifth needed assistance.

Emergency measures were implemented and those who participated in the response – risking their own life and health at times – helped to reduce the consequences of the incident.  

Actual consequences
Five people were hospitalised, with four discharged after a day and one after three days. No material damage or environmental harm were registered.

Potential consequences
H2S is a highly toxic gas. The dispersal analysis performed shows that the personnel were exposed to potentially fatal concentrations. Under slightly different circumstances, one or more of the exposed people could therefore have died.

Findings of the investigation

The PSA investigation detected several regulatory breaches, including inadequate management of activities, resources, processes and competence. It has also found deficiencies in the shift roster and shift changeover, as well as inadequacies in the leadership and execution of emergency response assignments

Based on the findings of the investigation, the PSA has now given Statoil notice of the following order.

Pursuant to section 69 of the framework regulations on administrative decisions, see sections 4, 5 and 6 of the management regulations on risk reduction, barriers and management of health, safety and the environment respectively, we order Statoil to take the necessary measures to ensure that activities which could expose personnel to harmful concentrations of H2S or other noxious substances at Sture can be conducted in an acceptable manner. See section 5.1.1 of the report. The effect of the measures must be verified.

The deadline for complying with this order is 1 June 2017. We must be notified when the order has been complied with.

Explanation of the terms "order" and "notification of order"
An order is an administrative decision made pursuant to the regulations. Before we issue an order, we generally send a "notification of order" to the affected companies.

A notification of order is neither an instrument nor a notice of sanctions, but a step in the our case processing in which we request the party to assess the factual basis. The notification is only the first step before an administrative decision is made.

An order is a strongly preventive instrument which is legally binding on the recipient

Eileen Brundtland, press contact
Email: eileen.brundtland@ptil.no | +47 92 26 98 95