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Key safety issues discussed

Lifeboats, relief wells and the PSA’s new main priority of the far north characterised debate at a dialogue meeting with the industry on status and signals for 2014.

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This session was staged in connection with the publication of the latest annual edition of the PSA’s Safety – status and signals report, where the far north is the main focus. However, attention at the meeting concentrated just as much on the recent Norwegian debate about the cost/benefit of offshore safety measures.

Some observers have asserted that the PSA’s proposed changes to the regulations on lifeboats and other means of evacuation are divorced from economic assessments. These claims are groundless, emphasised Anne Vatten, the PSA’s director for legal and regulatory affairs:

“We’ve conducted a thorough financial-administrative impact assessment, as required for such amendment proposals.

“The figures we’re applied are based on information from the industry. According to our impact assessment, the direct costs of the regulatory changes are estimated to be NOK 11-26 billion.”

Finn Carlsen, the PSA’s director of professional competence, emphasised at the same time that the lifeboat issue is not about introducing new requirements.

“It was discovered in 2005 that lifeboats on the Norwegian continental shelf [NCS] were not as good as had been thought,” he pointed out.

“The proposal we’ve now submitted to the ministry accordingly aims to return to the level of safety which once prevailed, with the requirements specified afresh.”

He also raised the discussion on relief wells. The regulations specify that the ability to kill a possible blowout by drilling a relief well must always be available. It has never been documented that an offshore well can be killed by two relief wells. So the PSA has accordingly invited consultation on a proposed regulatory amendment which requires that it must be possible to sto[ a blowout with a single well.

 “We’ve previously requested documentation from the industry on alternative solutions for halting a blowout,” Carlsen noted. “We’ll reconsider our change proposal if the industry can come up with good alternatives.”

The final part of the meeting was devoted to the far north of the NCS, the PSA’s new main priority for 2014. These waters are sensitive and demanding, and introduce additional risks which must be tackled to operate acceptably. Arne Kvitrud and Sigurd Robert Jacobsen, the PSA’s experts on weather and the far north, presented the challenging natural conditions faced in the far north.

This subject is covered in detail in the latest edition of Safety – status and signals, and invited speakers reported on their experience of working in the Barents Sea.

Chief executive Torstein Sannes from Lundin, for instance, emphasised that government, operators and rig contractors must collaborate better.

For his part, operations manager Bjarte Taranger from North Atlantic Drilling highlighted logistics and distances rather than weather as the biggest challenges during the far northern winter.

Henrik Solvorn Fjeldsbø from the Industry Energy union emphasised the most important consideration for employees: “Working in petroleum operations in the Barents Sea must be at least as safe as in the North Sea.”