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Audit of Gassco's follow-up of alarm systems

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has audited Gassco's follow-up of the alarm systems on its facilities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. During the audit, we found several non-conformities with the regulations.

The audit activity was carried out with the company receiving a set of questions prepared by the PSA. The questions dealt with selected management elements for systematic monitoring and follow-up of the company's alarm systems.

A written reply to these questions was sent to the PSA in the autumn of 2005. The company's answer to the individual questions and the PSA's own review of various governing documents in the autumn of 2005 and spring of 2006 form the basis for our notification.

Background for the audit

The audit activity was a follow-up of earlier audit activities regarding alarm systems on facilities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, in the period August 2000 to September 2002.

At that time, no activities were directed at Gassco.

During our earlier audits, several weaknesses were identified, mainly in connection with high alarm rates, little use of alarm prioritisation and alarm suppression logic. This entailed that several alarm systems did not provide the desired support to the control room personnel's handling of operational interruptions when the control room personnel had the greatest need for such support.

Furthermore, we registered that alarm philosophy documents and internal company requirements for assessing the performance and quality of the alarm systems in use were insufficient. A deficient reporting culture as regards registering weaknesses and faults in the alarm systems was also identified.

The alarm systems are the primary support system for notification and handling of irregular situations, and are thus an important barrier element for preventing undesirable conditions from developing into accidents. The PSA regards it as important that the companies follow up and maintain the status of these systems properly.

Purpose of the audit

The purpose of the audit was primarily to

  • get an overview of what activities the company has implemented to follow up the alarm systems,

  • get an overview of what performance requirements the companies set for their alarm systems,

  • verify to what degree the alarm systems have been mapped as regards technical functionality and user adaptation,

  • verify whether alarm systems comply with the companies' own performance requirements and universally acknowledged principles for good alarm system design,

  • get an overview of which routines have been established for regular follow-up of the technical condition and suitability of alarm systems in use,

  • get an overview of what routines have been established to register weaknesses, errors and faults related to process monitoring and control systems,

  • assess established systems for experience transfer, training and education in alarm system functionality,

  • get an overview of ongoing and planned measures in order to improve inadvisable conditions which deviate from internal company and authority requirements.


Result of the audit

During the audit we found non-conformities with the regulations related to lacking establishment of measurable performance requirements for the alarm systems.

Furthermore, we registered non-conformities with the regulations in connection with the practice of Gassco's technical service providers (TSP), Statoil and CoPSAS, when monitoring and mapping technical functionality, performance and user-friendliness related to established alarm systems and faults related to internal company routines for identification and handling of non-conformities.

Furthermore, the PSA is of the opinion that there is potential for improvement in providing the control room personnel with more structured training in matters relevant to alarm system philosophy, functionality and system performance.

Contact person i the Petroleum Safety Authority
Mike Theiss