Much has been learnt, but even more needs to be known. And the industry must collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. That is the message from the PSA as work on challenges in the far north enters a new phase.
Time to act on northern NCS
A milestone on this road was passed on 4 November, when a wide-ranging project led by the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association was presented at a one-day conference in Stavanger. The focus was on the safety of petroleum operations in the Barents Sea.
Under way since 2010, the project has involved the participation of more than 180 people from 62 companies, organisations and government agencies.
This activity has resulted in 383 recommendations on safety-related issues where more work is needed, and these subjects have been boiled down to 78 proposals.
Six working seminars were held during the final phase of the work in 2014, and the outcome of these sessions provided the agenda for the conference.
Technical challenges, knowledge gaps and research requirements are key issues for continued progress.
Anne Myhrvold, director general of the PSA, praises the project and the organisation of its work, and emphasises that the agency has participated in all the Norwegian Oil and Gas work groups rather than establishing its own.
“The results presented show that many challenges have been resolved, but a great many remain,” she notes. “The time has now come for action.
“A lack of knowledge and measures should not be allowed by the industry to delay planned activities and further development in the far north.
“The sort of questions which need an answer are what kind of mobile units can be used in the northernmost Barents Sea, including those capable of year-round drilling of relief wells.”
Myhrvold notes that activity in the Barents Sea during 2015 looks like being a little lower than this year. “The coming 12 months should therefore be used to overcome challenges we’ll meet when activity eventually moves further north and east.”
The Norwegian Oil and Gas project has identified important challenges for the working environment, emergency preparedness, logistics and design, communication and weather forecasting.
“Responsibility for continued work with these findings now rests both with the industry and with the individual company,” Myhrvold emphasises.
“This new knowledge has to be translated by the companies into specific measures to improve safety in far northern operations, and must be incorporated in their consent applications.”
Noting that the PSA will be following this up, she says that the industry must also act collectively to ensure that the extensive work done in the project leads to new solutions.
“Our message is clear. Members of Norwegian Oil and Gas, the Norwegian Shipowners Association and the Federation of Norwegian Industries must support this follow-up by allocating time and money to overcoming the challenges identified.”
“The project is as a good example of the way the industry can act jointly when necessary,” Myhrvold notes. “The identified problems must be overcome, and that’s best done through collaboration.”
She also points out that 33 companies have joined forces to acquire three-dimensional seismic data in Barents Sea South-East, with Statoil as operator.
“That’s another good example. This kind of cooperation can also apply in other areas. I hope that it’ll characterise the continued work in every way.”
She also hopes that everyone concerned – operators, vessel owners, licensees, suppliers, unions and government – will be drawn in where relevant.
“As chair of the Safety Forum, I want to see that all sides are involved, and that we can collectively contribute to a high level of safety in the far north.”
“Although the Norwegian Oil and Gas project has enhanced the industry’s knowledge, we see a need to learn even more,” Myhrvold acknowledges.
The PSA has retained the far north as one of its four main priorities for 2015, reports Finn Carlsen, director of professional competence and head of the team for this priority.
“We’ve identified six areas under this heading where we’ll be launching our own knowledge acquisition projects to help reduce uncertainty about far northern activities.
“These cover collaboration and parallel operation, suitable drilling units, mapping ice and snow conditions above 73°N, the working environment, structural safety and personnel transport.
“As the regulator, we must be able to understand the risks and the challenges – not least to assess solutions proposed in a plan for development and operation (PDO) or a consent application.”
Carlsen emphasises that the PSA will work to get the new knowledge about the far north incorporated in standards for the industry.
At the same time, he emphasises that cooperation between players in the northern Barents Sea should begin as early as the award of licences – and notes that the 23rd round is imminent.
“Collaboration at an early stage can provide benefits in relation to both safety and economics.”
Norwegian Oil and Gas is working to structure and classify the material obtained, reports HSE manager Aud Nistov, who has chaired the programme committee for The road north – HSE challenges in the far north.
It will now assess all the proposals to see which should be followed up and who might take responsibility for pursuing each chosen activity.
Work initiated by the association will depend on the assignments it receives from its member companies. All decisions on follow-up will be taken by its governing bodies.
This will be presented in detail in the final report for the project, which is due to be completed during the first quarter of next year.