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Joint effort to reduce the number of gas leaks

The development in the number of gas leaks (hydrocarbon leaks) on the Norwegian shelf in recent years is a source of concern for both the authorities and the industry. In a meeting held in the NPD's offices on 17 June, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and the operators on the Norwegian shelf agreed that measures must be implemented to reduce the risk of a major accident resulting from a gas leak. Among other things, the NPD received full support for its proposal to introduce concrete goals for reductions in leaks on the Norwegian shelf.

The background for the meeting between the operating companies and the NPD was the report "Development in risk level on the Norwegian shelf. Phase 3 - 2002", which was presented in April of this year.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate initiated the risk level project in 1999/2000. The goal of the project is to develop and apply measurement tools that show the development in the risk level on the Norwegian shelf. The results from the project are presented in annual reports.

The 2002 report concluded that there is an increasing risk that a major accident will occur on the Norwegian shelf. The development in the number of undesirable incidents linked to gas leaks is one of the risk indicators that gives the greatest cause for concern.

"Wrong direction"

"The authorities and the companies operating on the Norwegian shelf have a shared vision for the petroleum activities. We all want an industry that causes no injury to human beings, nor damage to the environment and material assets. We can certainly discuss how close we are to achieving this vision, but one thing is crystal clear - we cannot be satisfied unless we are moving in the right direction. The results from the risk level project indicate a trend that is not satisfactory. We must do something about this," said Director General Gunnar Berge in the meeting.

This figure is taken from the latest risk level report, and shows the number of recorded hydrocarbon leaks of more than 0.1 kg/s from 1996 ? 2002 distributed according to size.

Although the number of serious gas leaks does not appear to have increased, the total number of hydrocarbon leaks has exhibited an unfortunate trend for several years. The results show that there has apparently been too little focus on achieving a reduction in the frequency of such leaks.

During the period 1996-2002 there has been a total of 228 significant hydrocarbon leaks from permanent and mobile installations on the Norwegian shelf. None of the gas leaks have ignited. Nevertheless, the number of gas leaks gives grounds for concern, because the potential for a serious accident if the gas ignites is so high.

The industry wants concrete goals

At the meeting in the NPD's offices there was complete agreement between the authorities and the operating companies that the development in the number of gas leaks gives grounds for concern, and that more systematic work is needed in this area than has been done previously.

The operating companies mentioned several important measures that are already underway, including increased transfer of experience both between the companies and in relation to the operators' activities in other offshore areas. The Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) has also commenced work with the goal of reducing the number of gas leaks.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has already decided that it will perform investigations of the most serious hydrocarbon leaks. The NDP is also of the opinion that it is important to look at what the authorities in other countries have done in this area.

Among other things, the British offshore authorities introduced a goal a few years ago entailing a 50% reduction in the number of gas leaks larger than a defined amount. Experience indicates that this has had a positive effect in the form of fewer gas leaks on the British shelf so far in 2003.

During the meeting in the NPD, there was extensive agreement that concrete reduction goals should also be introduced on the Norwegian shelf.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate will be a driving force to establish such reduction goals, which must be both realistic and formulated in such a manner that they actually contribute to reducing the risk level.

The goal is to introduce such reduction goals as soon as practicable.

Contact in the NPD:
Eldbjørg Vaage Melberg
Information advicer
Ph: 957 00 320