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Audit - hydrocarbon leaks on Oseberg

During the period 14-18 June 2004, we conducted an audit of Norsk Hydro's (Hydro) follow-up of hydrocarbon leaks on the Oseberg field.

Background for the audit

In the award letter from the Ministry, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) is required to:

  • contribute to reducing the risk level in the offshore petroleum activities, including:
    - following up to ensure that the players facilitate technical and operational integrity for the installations
    - follow up to ensure that the players avoid hydrocarbon leaks and other incidents that have a high potential as regards the risk of major accidents.
  • ensure that the topic of HSE culture is integrated into and followed up through the PSA's various supervision activities.

In its 2003 report, the "Risk level on the Norwegian shelf" project has shown that there is no clear trend as regards development of hydrocarbon leaks during the period 1996-2003, even though 2003 shows a decline compared with 2002.

The OLF project GaLeRe (Gas Leak Reduction) has the goal of a minimum 50 % reduction in the number of hydrocarbon leaks >0.1 kg/s on the Norwegian shelf by the end of 2005.

An accident on the Brent Bravo platform on the British shelf on 11 September 2003 claimed the lives of two people in connection with a hydrocarbon leak in the shaft.

We want to examine which measures operators have implemented after this accident in order to prevent the occurrence of a similar accident on the Norwegian shelf.

We also want to help communicate knowledge regarding the narcotic effect of hydrocarbons.
The circumstances mentioned above formed the background for the audit, along with the fact that hydrocarbon leaks are a type of incident that contributes greatly to the risk of major accidents.

Purpose of the audit

Our objectives for the audit were as follows:

  • To verify that Hydro ensures that incidents involving hydrocarbon leaks on Oseberg are followed up in accordance with Hydro's internal requirements and applicable regulations.
  • To gain an overview of how Hydro uses experience gained from incidents in its preventive safety work.
  • To gain an overview of how Hydro follows up the experience gained from the Brent Bravo accident in particular.
  • To contribute to increased understanding of the risk linked with the narcotic effect of hydrocarbons.

Result of the audit

The organization is largely familiar with the objectives established as regards hydrocarbon leaks at the Oseberg field center.

In those cases where the persons we spoke to were not aware of the objectives, they do abide by the vision, which is zero hydrocarbon leaks.

Our impression from interviews in the organization is that the personnel perceive the management's message that there is always time to work safety as being sincere.

Several measures have been implemented with the aim of reducing the risk of hydrocarbon leaks at the Oseberg field center.

Internal courses illustrating how gas spreads during a leak and area-based searches for hydrocarbon leaks are good examples in this context.

Although it is our impression that good practices have been established as regards investigation of serious incidents on Oseberg, no clear criteria have been set for which incidents are to be investigated and at what level.

This is a non-conformance with Section 19 of the Management Regulations relating to recording, studying and investigating hazard and accident situations.

We have identified potential for improvement associated with classification of hydrocarbon leaks.
This classification is currently linked to detection and thus does not always reflect the potential risk.

We have also identified a potential for improvement as regards use of incident history in the preventive safety work.

As of today, requirements have been established to the effect that each unit must conduct semi-annual and annual analyses.

This is not implemented as described at the Oseberg field center.

Instead, requirements have been set up for the implementation of analyses on a departmental basis on the platform.

The company was unable to document that analyses were carried out in accordance with governing documents in all departments.

The work presented to us was too limited to enable production of statistics.

The system for investigating repeating incidents could be improved.

The incident on Brent Bravo on 11 September 2003 has led the Oseberg organization to perform a Hazop of the drainage systems, during which no new factors were revealed.

There was little awareness of the Brent Bravo incident and the narcotic effect of hydrocarbons in the Oseberg organization.

The audit report was sent to Hydro on 7 July 2004.

Contact person in the PSA:
Mike Theiss