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Barents risk to be debated at Safety Forum annual conference

Safety Forum annual conference: The risk associated with oil production in the Barents Sea must be as low as possible. "Our regulations are good enough, but it is important that the players do their jobs and follow up in putting this into practice," says discipline leader Ingrid E. Årstad in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA).

The PSA will publish advance reviews of relevant contributions prior to the Safety Forum's annual conference.  These articles are products of journalism, and the viewpoints therein will not necessarily conform with the PSA's perceptions. 

By Per Lars Tonstad

Årstad will be among those on the panel at the Safety Forum's annual conference on 12 June, where she will meet others including World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) secretary-general Rasmus Hansson for a debate on oil activity in the Barents Sea.  Like the other environmental organizations, WWF opposes allowing exploration drilling in arctic ocean areas.

"The PSA should be extremely concerned with acting in an objective and neutral manner, and not joining up with the oil team," says Hansson.

Calls for more proactive supervision
Hansson expects more offensive supervision.  "The PSA must present the harsh realities and its experience as regards the behaviour of the oil industry and the environmental risks that exist.  The PSA has a high level of expertise in safety and nonconformities, which are very important areas when evaluating environmental consequences," says Hansson.

 No doubt about integrity
Discipline leader Ingrid E. Årstad emphasises that professional integrity is a fundamental value for the Authority.

"And we don't compromise on that.  This is not to say that we never make mistakes, but no one should doubt our professional independence, which is rooted in ambitious HSE regulations and a clear mandate to help ensure that accidents do not occur - also in the Barents Sea, says Årstad.

The risk that something could happen can never be totally eliminated.  The point of departure today is that, if the industry complies with the regulations, it is possible to carry out responsible petroleum activity in the Barents Sea.

"Most important is to prevent accidents.  However, if a spill should occur, the spill must be limited as much as possible and must be stopped as fast as possible.  Lessons learned from successes and failures in accident prevention work from all of the petroleum activities must be utilised to achieve the goal of the lowest possible risk in the Barents Sea," says Årstad.

 "Too risky"
WWF's Rasmus Hansson has already concluded that oil activity in the far north is not responsible.
"The natural values are too great to subject them to the risk associated with this industry," he believes.

"Some will claim that experience shows that spills are not so significant, nature takes care of itself, and it is said that shipping spills more oil into the sea than the oil industry?"

"It is correct that tankers pollute more, but we cannot have the attitude that, because greater threats exist, the oil industry should be allowed to do what it likes.  Surely we have grown out of these kinds of arguments.  It is also true that nature sometimes takes care of spills itself.  But it is sad that key players claim that this is always the case.  In fact, we have very well-documented examples of the opposite being true, that oil spills really do destroy nature and take life," says Rasmus Hansson.

You can hear both Årstad and Hansson speak about oil activity in the Barents Sea at the annual conference in Stavanger on 12 June.

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Angela Ebbesen, technical secretary in Safety Forum
E-mail: angela.ebbesen@ptil.no