AoC is a normative statement from the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (formerly the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate) to the owners to the effect that the installation with its associated management systems is in compliance with the regulatory requirements.
The purpose of the AoC system, which was implemented as a trial system in 2000, is to increase the predictability for the owners and streamline the work for the operating companies, owners and authorities when processing applications for use of the installations. An AoC does not give the right to start up activities on the Norwegian shelf, but can be part of the documentation in connection with an application for consent for petroleum activities.
The system was evaluated in 2002 and introduced as mandatory system from the beginning of the year.
West Venture is the fourteenth mobile drilling installation with an AoC. The installation was built in Japan in 2000 and is designed to operate in deep water under tough climatic conditions. The installation can operate in water depths of up to 1800 meters and drill wells with a total depth of more then 9000 meters. The living quarters have a capacity of 114 persons in all.
"West Navion, now West Navigator, was given the "world's first AoC" in 2000. With West Venture, all of our mobile drilling installations that are relevant for the Norwegian shelf now have an approved AoC," says Bratthammar, and emphasizes that four years with the AoC system have given the drilling contractor company valuable knowledge and experience.
"The work with the Acknowledgement of Compliance has been informative and has also enhanced our organizations' awareness, both on land and offshore. It has given us a stronger awareness of the details in the regulatory requirements. Through the application processes we have also uncovered some technical or management weaknesses in our drilling installations. Early identification of weaknesses has given us both financial savings and gains in the HES area," Bratthammar points out.
"When we were working on the AoC application for West Venture, for example, we identified weaknesses in relation to the requirement for weathertight integrity for some of the doors on board," Oddvar Tønnessen adds. He is an HES engineer with Smedvig.
"Under normal conditions this is not dangerous, but in the event of structural damage this weakness could have been a safety risk. We would most likely have discovered this ourselves sooner or later, but through the work on the AoC application we identified the weakness at an early stage so that we ourselves could define remedies and a time schedule for this," says Tønnessen.
West Venture has been involved in drilling programs on the Troll field, operated by Norsk Hydro, since March 2000. According to the plan, the drilling installation will be on the Troll field for at least another two years.
Preparing an AoC application is an extensive process.
"The basic work in the first year required many resources. Now that the methodology is in place we spend an average of three months preparing an AoC application. A team of four to five persons then work full-time on the application. In addition, we bring in resource persons for shorter periods of time. But, as mentioned, the work has also led to savings in the form of controlled improvement of weaknesses which we discovered in the AoC application phase," says Tønnessen.
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway has emphasized that the AoC system is also important on connection with the increased internationalization in the petroleum sector because it can contribute to simplifying the work of moving drilling installations across the shelf borders.
"We hope for synergy effects in that a similar system is introduced for the entire North Sea area," Bratthammar emphasizes, and adds that Smedvig also uses the AoCs in their marketing vis-à-vis customers on the Norwegian shelf.
"The AoC systems clarifies the drilling contractors' responsibilities. In addition, an AoC entails that the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway has taken a position on and approved our definition of the petroleum regulatory requirements. This gives us good cards to play when we negotiate with the operators," says Bratthammar.
Both of them point out that the process surrounding the AoC system has been characterized by flexibility and good cooperation with the NPD and, after New Year, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.
"It is important to continue to focus on AoC, and that the authorities, drilling contractors and companies use AoC so that the system becomes the effective policy instrument it was intended to be in the future as well."