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International cooperation for better safety

- The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has for years prioritized increased international cooperation between government authorities in order to create a broad basis for improving safety in the petroleum activities, as well as making it simpler to move installations to the continental shelf of another country.

So said Magne Ognedal, Director for supervision of activities in the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, during the seminar "HES challenges across continental shelves".

The seminar took place in Bergen on 13 March and was the second in a series of four HES seminars which the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate is organizing in cooperation with Nito (Norwegian Society of Engineers).

Hydro's facilities on Sandsli with nearly 100 participants, primarily leaders in the petroleum industry, HES personnel, safety delegates and other professionals working with HES.

Principal engineer Thor Gunnar Dahle from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate gave the introductory presentation on HES in the petroleum activities significance, perspectives and challenges. Ketil Lenning, managing director of Odfjell Drilling and Geir Pettersen, director of HES in Statoil, each gave a presentation on "How to handle the risk, the regulations and the bill in periods of decline".

Cooperation across borders
Ognedal concluded the seminar in Bergen by reviewing key international arenas where the NPD is represented.

He started by pointing out that the industry and the employer/employee organizations have a long tradition of establishing international arenas, while government authorities are the only players that have had no such meeting places. To alleviate this, NSOAF ("North Sea Offshore Authorities Forum") was established as an government forum for the Northwest-European countries with a continental shelf.

A lack of cooperation at government level has inter alia made it difficult and expensive to move rigs onto another country¡¯s continental shelf. NSOAF, whose task is to discuss technical and government-related matters in the member countries, therefore appointed a working group to find solutions which will make it simpler to move drilling installations across shelf borders. The working group has been chaired by Magne Ognedal.

An important result of this work was reached when the international organization of drilling contractors (IADC), following pressure from NSOAF in 2002, prepared "North West Europe HES Case Guidelines", which are guidelines for the preparation of application documentation which satisfies the regulatory requirements common to all the countries in the North Sea area.

Another working group under the direction of NSOAF was appointed to work out a mutual recognition of the North Sea countries training certificates. The working group is now in the final phase of preparing a common module system for training offshore. This will make it far simpler for offshore employees to work at the shelves of the other North Sea countries.

"No Norwegian requirements have been changed or dropped as a result of this work," said Ognedal, underlining that the various governments' HES requirements have been the starting point and the framework for the work which has been done.

Important transfer of experience
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has also been an active contributor in organizations that also focus on other areas than the North Sea - one such is IRF (International Regulators' Forum).

IRF is a world-wide government forum that has annual meetings as well as continuous contact between the member countries. The aim is to promote a joint understanding of matters related to health, safety and the environment, such as performance of administrative duties, technical issues, regulatory developments, etc.

From the Norwegian point of view, IRF has been a useful arena for gaining an understanding of experiences which Brazil and the Mexico Gulf states have had within deep water drilling, while Canada has experience in the challenges associated with petroleum activities in cold areas.

"The effect of international cooperation is that we exchange information and knowledge that enable us to define the need for joint measures. It also helps us be driving forces for improvement in the area of safety, both nationally and internationally", Ognedal concluded.