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HSE in 2005: Post-Snorre

The gas blowout on Snorre A on 28 November 2004 left its mark on the work carried out by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), also in 2005. "Only insignificant margins kept the Snorre incident from ending in catastrophe. Our investigation report revealed 28 serious violations of the regulations. I am still astonished that things could go as wrong over a period of time as they did in the Snorre organization," says director Magne Ognedal (pictured) in a summary of the HSE year in 2005.

The PSA's investigation report was presented in March of last year. The report concluded that the incident was not the result of chance circumstances, but rather a pervasive failure in the operator's (Statoil's) planning, procedures and assessments. These finding were the basis for the PSA issuing an extensive order to Statoil. (Link to investigation report)

"Both the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and Statoil have worked diligently to analyze the causes of the incident, but Statoil still faces a considerable challenge when it comes to finding methods to measure the results of the company's improvement measures," says Ognedal.

"This incident appears to have been an eye-opener for the entire industry. It is good to see that the industry has been curious regarding the experiences gained from Snorre, and that Statoil has been quite open in explaining how things could go so wrong. This shows that the industry sees a potential for learning and sharing experiences."

The PSA director also points out that the Snorre incident illustrates the importance of the players always maintaining an overview of the risk scenarios in their own activities, and that they have the ability to manage their activities based on an overall understanding of the risks involved.

"To achieve this, both human, technological and organizational (MTO) factors - and not least the interplay between these elements - must be viewed in context," says Ognedal.

Fatal accident at land facility
On 28 June, a construction worker died as the result of an accident at the Ormen Lange land facility at Nyhamna. This was the first fatal accident in the PSA's sphere of responsibility since the agency was established on 1 January 2004. Our investigation report subsequent to the accident revealed a number of breaches of the regulations on the part of the contractor, Skanska Norge, and also that the key factor in the incident was an insufficiently thorough risk assessment. (Link to to more info - investigation report in Norwegian only)

"Even though the work operations differ in many areas between offshore and land, a common denominator is that the activities all entail risk. The Nyhamna accident is a reminder that the requirement for systematic risk assessment and management is just as important on land as it is on the shelf," says Ognedal.

Once again, it is gratifying to note that 2005 was yet another year without any fatal accidents on the Norwegian shelf. No fatal accidents have occurred offshore since 2002.

Gas leak goal achieved
As part of the project "Trends in risk levels - Norwegian continental shelf " (RNNS), the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway records and quality-assures data for a number of hazard and accident situations. The objective is to describe how the risk scenario develops from year to year in the petroleum activities. The results are presented in annual reports. (Link to more RNNS-info: www.psa.no/risklevels)

The RNNS numbers for 2005 will not be presented until 28 April, however, a preliminary review shows that the industry's goal of a 50 percent reduction in the number of hydrocarbon leaks with a leak rate of more than 0.1 kg/s by the end of 2005 (measured against the average from 2000 to 2002), was achieved.

"This is very good news. It shows that good results can be achieved when the industry and the authorities decide to make a determined effort," says Ognedal. He offers particular praise for the work done under the direction of the GaLeRe project (Gas Leak Reduction Project), initiated by the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) in 2003.

The working group, represented by leader Øyvind Halle, was congratulated for their fine efforts in a ceremony at the PSA's offices on 11 January.

However, until all of the leaks have been analyzed, it is too soon to assess the hydrocarbon leaks' contribution to the risk of major accidents in an RNNS context.

More personal injuries in 2005
A preliminary RNNS overview of serious personal injuries indicates that the positive declining trend in recent years has stopped. There was an increase in the number of serious personal injuries from 2004 to 2005, and we are back to the average level of the previous ten years. However, there is some uncertainty concerning these figures, in part because the classification of injuries has not been quality-assured, and the man-hour numbers for the last quarter have not yet been reported.

"Our expectation is that the industry will work on continuous improvement of all areas in the field of health, safety and environment. Good results in one area do not offset a decline in other areas," says Ognedal, and refers to the RNNS report to be released on 28 April. The report will contain quality-assured data and analyses of development trends in a number of areas.

Lifeboats are one of the most important means of evacuation on the facilities on the Norwegian shelf. Therefore, there was great concern when a lifeboat was damaged during a test on Veslefrikk B on 21 June of last year. Statoil's investigation report concluded that the lifeboat in question may have had fabrication and/or design weaknesses in the superstructure. Lifeboats of this type on Veslefrikk B were taken out of operation and production was shut down. After testing by the manufacturer, modernized lifeboats were re-installed on Veslefrikk B, as well as on the Kristin facility, which recently came on stream.

Extensive work is underway concerning this issue, both in Norway and internationally. This work includes a review of the requirements for prototype tests, regulations, and potential need for improvements. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway emphasizes that, at this time, we still regard free-fall lifeboats as being the best available technology for lifeboat evacuation on the Norwegian shelf. This is a perception shared by the offshore safety authorities in many other countries. (Link to more information on our follow-up of the lifeboat issue)

Drilling in the Barents Sea
All petroleum activity in the Barents Sea shall be based on the premise of zero environmentally harmful discharges to sea from drilling and well activities during normal operations. The exception is cuttings and drilling fluid from the top hole section, which can normally be discharged to the seabed.

During exploration drilling in the spring of 2005, there were several accidental discharges involving the Eirik Raude drilling facility. The activity was halted in April and an investigation was implemented.

"Even though these discharges did not have consequences for the environment, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway takes a serious view of the fact that these leaks occurred. It is important that we continue to work with other government agencies in 2006 to ensure that activities in the northern areas are conducted in accordance with the regulations and other stipulated frameworks," Ognedal emphasizes, and adds that the PSA will cooperate with the Russian authorities to develop a high level of HSE in petroleum activities in the Barents Sea.

Melkøya charges
On 1 December 2004, regulations relating to general application of wage agreements came into force for seven petroleum facilities on land that fall under the PSA's jurisdiction. The purpose of the Act relating to general application of wage agreements, etc. is to prevent situations where foreign employees are offered poorer wages and working conditions than those laid down in Norwegian collective wage agreements.

In December 2005, the PSA's follow-up of this supervisory responsibility resulted in charges being filed against a company operating on Melkøya following suspicion of gross violations of both the Act relation to general application of wage agreements and the Working Environment Act. It is the PSA's position that follow-up of these matters is an important priority for both the supervisory authorities and the police.

Expanded AoC scheme
In 2006, the Acknowledge of Compliance system (AoC) for mobile drilling facilities will be expanded to include all flagged facilities that are to participate in the petroleum activities on the Norwegian shelf.

The AoC scheme for mobile drilling facilities was introduced on 1 August 2000, evaluated in 2002 and made mandatory from 1 January 2004, with a transitional scheme until 1 January 2005.

"Feedback from the industry on the AoC scheme has been exclusively positive, in part because the scheme ensures a clear division of responsibilities between the players and contributes to increased knowledge of the HSE regulations. For us, the AoC provides distinct efficiency benefits in that we do not have to fine-comb facilities in connection with applications for consent. Instead, we can refer to the AoCs that have been granted," says Ognedal. There will be a transitional scheme in 2006 before the expanded AoC scheme becomes mandatory. (Link: )

International cooperation
The petroleum industry is an international industry with facilities that are moved across shelf boundaries, organizations that stretch across borders and, not least, technology that makes it possible to carry out operations regardless of geographic location.
This illustrates the necessity of active participation in national and international forums that are important for HSE in the petroleum activities.

The PSA has been a driving force in the International Regulators Forum (IRF), which facilitates the exchange of ideas and opinions concerning applied methods and principles for efficient exercise of the supervision of safety and working environment. The IRF also exchanges factual data concerning audit activities and keeps each other apprised of relevant technical issues, regulatory developments, etc.

In the spring of 2005, IRF organized the first ever conference for authorities. The conference was held in London and attracted participants from the offshore authorities in more than 20 countries. When concluding the conference, the IRF pledged to establish a global network for authorities and industry organizations with the common objective of identifying areas which can improve the level of HSE. (Link to more IRF info)

"Through national and international cooperation on HSE, we also want to contribute towards maintaining and further developing HSE standards without impairing competitiveness, says Ognedal.

A key arena in this respect is the North Sea Offshore Authorities Forum (NSOAF), which includes representatives of all of the North Sea countries's authorities with supervisory responsibility for offshore petroleum activities. The Forum's objective is to contribute to continuous improvement in health, environment and safety in the petroleum activities in the North Sea, and to find common HSE solutions that function for both the industry and the authorities. In 2004, a standard was completed for qualification and documentation of mobile drilling facilities with identified special requirements for the respective North Sea countries. In 2005, a new working group was appointed in NSOAF with an expanded mandate to identify common offshore issues for all types of activities and facilities that operate in the North Sea basin. (Link to more NSOAF info)

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Press spokesperson Inger Anda
E-mail: inger.anda@ptil.no
Telephone: +47 970 54 064