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Expertise and capacity

Managements must secure enough expertise and capacity to execute activities in an acceptable manner.

Certain factors have been identified at the end of 2007 by Magne Ognedal, directorgeneral of the PSA, as the most serious among many other important aspects. These include expertise and capacity, major accidents, the StatoilHydro merger and the natural environment. Even here, however, everything is interdependent.

New companies
“Some of the new companies on the NCS don’t appear to be so familiar with the duties which accompany the rights they have secured. They opt to outsource responsibility for and execution of jobs to contractors, and confi ne themselves to a minimum staffi ng.

“Companies operating on the NCS can naturally use sub-contractors – but must possess in-house the fundamental expertise needed to comply with regulatory requirements for the business.”

New projects
“A number of giant projects are scheduled for the NCS, including new developments on old fi elds, modifi cations and extensions to production life.

“This adds up to a number of labour- and resourceintensive jobs. The question is whether all the companies, be they operators or contractors, are capable of acceptably executing forthcoming projects alongside normal operation.

“Every company must ask itself that. If the answer is no, the decision must be that it currently lacks the necessary capacity and expertise and must therefore postpone the work.

“The PSA does not want to play the role of a body which puts the brake on activity. Our job is to check that work is carried out in compliance with the regulations.

“We shouldn’t be receiving applications for unrealistic projects. Companies must assess their capacity before applying for offi cial consent. Unfortunately, we have found this order reversed on a number of occasions.”

Drilling and wells
“Drilling and well activities are affected by huge pressure on the labour market combined with developments which make operations ever more complex, complicated and dependent on experience.

“This critical area requires personnel with great knowledge and long involvement if risk is to be kept at an acceptable level.

“We’ve seen examples of new small operators ordering a fully tested and completed well from an external contractor while disclaiming their own responsibility. That’s unacceptable.”

Risk of major accidents
“A major accident is the worst that could happen in our industry. Avoiding a new incident of this kind in Norway calls for a fundamental understanding of risk.

“Company managements above all must be aware of and knowledgeable about factors which enhance risk. Focusing on statistics of personal injuries and undesirable incidents alone is a waste of time in seeking to avoid major accidents. Regrettably, we constantly see irrelevant data being presented in this context.

“Preventing such incidents calls for a fundamental understanding of factors which infl uence risk, including technical integrity and barriers. The report on the Texas City disaster is a thought-provoking textbook in that respect.”

StatoilHydro merger
“The big StatoilHydro merger took place in 2007.  Particular interest attaches to how phase two of this marriage – integration of operations organisations on land and offshore – will be implemented.

“Our expectations have been aroused by statements from the corporate management that StatoilHydro will take the best from both companies and become better at safety after the merger.

“Achieving this is likely to be demanding when additional groups of competent personnel will probably accept the early retirement package and leave the company.

“There’s a risk of entire specialist teams disappearing, and recruiting new people with corresponding expertise is extremely diffi cult in today’s market.

“StatoilHydro must adopt a conscious approach to risk throughout the whole integration process now being implemented for operations. Much needs to be restructured, while all activity must continue simultaneously.

“The company should ensure that the effects of the process are measured, allowing it to document later that the changes have been successful and that the conditions were met.

“Through its responsibility for 80 per cent of operations on the NCS, StatoilHydro exerts great infl uence over the level of risk. The company must succeed if Norway is to reach its goal of being a world leader for HSE.”

Natural environment
“Our regulations have been devised to protect people, the natural environment and material assets. The priority given to environmental protection should be enhanced as activity moves into more environmentally sensitive waters. Such work also helps to improve safety for people.

“In recent months, we have experienced discharges to the sea from Statfjord A and Draugen. The fi rst of these was large, the other small – but they were collectively enough to call environmental protection on the NCS into question.

“Awareness of and the approach taken to risk also occupy a key place in environmental protection. Safety is best preserved through prevention of undesirable incidents – and through an appreciation that technical and operational barriers must be in place to achieve secure operation.

“Good oil spill response is naturally important, but the most important consideration will always be to prevent spills happening at all.”