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Health, safety and environment in the petroleum activities in 2003

Petroleum Safety Authority Norway's press conference in Stavanger 13. january 2003: "HSE - status and trends in the petroleum activities in 2003"

The new Petroleum Safety Authority Norway
Just before Christmas 2002, the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration decided that the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate would be divided into two separate entities. At the same time, it was decided that from 1 January 2004, the new Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) would also have regulatory responsibility for eight land facilities associated with the petroleum activities.

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway aims to live up to the Government's stated ambition for the agency to emerge with solid authority and take responsibility for vigorous and clear coordination between the relevant authorities.

The Government also made it clear that the supervision must be systematic and based on risk, in other words, a continuation of key principles that have formed the foundation for this work previously. The same applies to principles relating to participation and cooperation between the parties. There must also be a solid balance between the PSA's role as regards supervision of high-risk activities/technology and labor inspection.

Five positions have been added to the PSA from the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) and the Directorate of Labour Inspection, which was previously responsible for the relevant land facilities.

However, these five positions do not meet the real capacity needs and the PSA thus expects that necessary supervision of the land facilities will have consequences for the scope of the offshore supervision, which will hopefully be limited to a transitional period.

Accidents, injuries and incidents
2003 was a year without fatalities as regards the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate's sphere of authority. We are, of course, satisfied with this but we must be cautious in drawing conclusions with regard to the underlying risk that accidents can occur.

Preliminary figures for 2003 show an apparent continuation of the decline in reportable personal injuries from the two previous years. However, there has been a clear increase in the number of injuries defined as first-aid injuries. First-aid injuries need not be reported to the PSA, but they are submitted to ensure rights under the social security system.

The figures for gas leaks during the first half of 2003 show a marked reduction compared with the same period in the previous year, primarily as regards minor leaks. There have been no leaks classified as "major" during the year.

It appears that the figures for the year as a whole will drop towards the same level as in 2001, which reinforces the trend towards reduction. Final figures for 2003 will be presented at a press conference to be held on 23 April 2004.

The figure shows the number of hydrocarbon leaks distributed by size category from 1996 (the figure reflects only the first six months of 2003)

Priority tasks in 2003
In 2003, the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration asked the NPD to prioritize efforts aimed at HSE culture, clarity of roles and responsibilities, the technical condition of the installations, change and development processes, as well as a general strengthening of the supervision.

The priorities set and the basis for this, which were expressed in part in Storting White Paper No. 7 on health, environment and safety in the petroleum activities, show that the greatest challenges are still linked to the industry's ability and willingness to guide the activities towards clear goals in this area.

Development in risk level
The risk level project was started in 1999 with the objective of obtaining a more unbiased and measurable basis on which to evaluate developments in the overall risk of major accidents taking place, as well as to identify which problem areas constitute the largest contributors to this risk.

The assessments made in the continuous follow-up of the project show that the largest contributors in 2003 were once again gas leaks (hydrocarbon gas - HC), well kicks and damage to load-bearing structures.

The NPD continues to be concerned about the extent of the gas leaks, but is satisfied that the industry appears to have taken this problem seriously. The industry has now made a commitment to cut the number of gas leaks in half for the period 2003-2005, as compared with the previous three-year period.

The Safety Forum - an HSE arena in a tripartite perspective
We can confirm that over the last two years, this tripartite cooperation has grown from being fraught with conflicts to a far greater degree of coordinated action. The authorities' commitment to the tripartite cooperation and further development of the cooperation with the employee unions has contributed to this positive trend.

The Safety Forum, established in 2001, has been a key arena and impetus in HSE cooperation within the industry. The Forum is led by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway's Director, Magne Ognedal, and all key employee and employer organizations are members, while the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration participates as an observer.

The Forum has become a central arena for establishing a common understanding of the current situation with the project "Risk level on the Norwegian shelf" as a core project for reporting and discussion purposes. Such a common understanding of the current situation is also a prerequisite for cooperation on solving HSE challenges.

The risk level project also formed a basis for the process surrounding Storting White Paper No. 7, which was also rooted in the Safety Forum.

The Safety Forum conducts continuous discussions of issues and results in ongoing projects and processes, such as the HSE research program and projects such as "Risk Level on the Norwegian shelf", "Aging and Health", the cancer project and audit projects such as "Lifting for catering" and supervision of working hours. In 2003, the Safety Forum implemented its first annual conference with 150 participants from the industry and employee organizations.

The Safety Forum holds four regular meetings each year. One of these runs over two days and is combined with visits to companies. In 2003, this meeting was held in Hammerfest with visits to the Snøhvit project on Melkøya Island.

The goal-oriented and creative processes carried out under the direction of Working Together for Safety have also been essential in ensuring the committed involvement of the industry in a number of development projects.

Change processes in the petroleum industry
Following up the change processes that are underway in the industry has been another priority area in 2003, and this will continue in 2004. The authorities are receptive to the idea of the industry organizing the activities in new ways. Therefore, the focus is primarily aimed at how such processes are managed, with a view towards how they affect HSE factors over the short and long term, as well as the employees' involvement in these processes.

Examples of change processes that the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway will supervise include:

  • organization of activities on installations nearing their final stages and on installations operating with low-level manning
  • removal of installations after the production phase has ended
  • new concepts for distribution of tasks between land and offshore, such as operation and monitoring of installations from land
  • altered decision patterns due to new contracts, new players and increased internationalization of the decision processes.

The Acknowledgement of Compliance system (AoC)
This system was introduced in 2000. Upon application by a shipping company or owner of a mobile drilling rig, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway will make a statement indicating that the installation, with its technical equipment and control systems, is assessed as being in compliance with the relevant requirements in the Norwegian shelf regulations.

The intention is to avoid unnecessary duplicate work to check and document regulatory compliance for drilling rigs when the rigs take on new assignments. This benefits both the authorities and the industry.

At the same time, the shipping companies/owners achieve improved predictability as regards use of the rig on the Norwegian shelf.

This system became mandatory as from 1 January 2004. In other words, the rig must have an Acknowledgement of Compliance from the PSA before permits can be granted for activities involving the rig. Thirteen such AoCs had been issued at the end of the year, while ten applications are currently being processed in the PSA.

The system is also important in connection with the increased internationalization in the petroleum sector. In 2003, the European branch of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) published guidelines for a joint application basis for mobile drilling rigs in five of the countries around the North Sea.

The guidelines show that the differences in the specific regulatory requirements in these five countries are few in number and small in scope. The guidelines consist of a main section which covers the requirements that are the same in all of the countries, while the specific requirements in the respective countries are described in separate appendices.

An AoC can be used as documentation of compliance with the Norwegian requirements in the guidelines. Thus, the AoC system also helps streamline the work associated with moving drilling rigs across shelf boundaries.

As shown in the above figure, the IADC guidelines address the physical installation as well as relevant parts of the shipping company's/owner's management and control system.

When the installation is to be used, the operating company responsible for the drilling activity must carry out the work necessary to ensure that the installation is suitable for this activity (activity-specific factors).