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Number of gas leaks on the Norwegian shelf cut in half

The industry has achieved its objective of cutting the number of major hydrocarbon leaks on the Norwegian shelf in half. "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 Magne Ognedal, director of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA). He supports the industry's goal of another halving of the number of leaks by the end of 2008.


The goal set by the authorities and the industry was to cut the number of hydrocarbon leaks larger than 0.1 kg/s in half by the end of 2005, compared with the average in 2000-2002. This objective meant having no more than 20 major leaks in 2005. At year-end, the PSA had recorded 16 hydrocarbon leaks greater than 0.1 kg/s.

Øyvin Halle, who led the project the industry set up to reach this goal, was honored with flowers and words of praise during a ceremony in the PSA's offices on 11 January (see photo in the introduction).

"The project was successful. It is also important to mention that the good work done by the individual companies has been crucial to achieving this objective," says Ognedal.

"It is important to ensure that the industry does not rest on its laurels here, but continues the good trend. It is gratifying to see that the industry has adopted a new goal of yet another halving of the number of leaks by 2008," the PSA director points out.

Background
For many years, the development in the number of hydrocarbon leaks on the Norwegian shelf has been a source of concern for both the authorities and the industry. The 2002 report by the risk level project (RNNS - Trends in risk levels - Norwegian continental shelf)* concluded inter alia that the risk of a major accident occurring on the Norwegian shelf was on the rise, not least as a consequence of the development in the number of hydrocarbon leaks.

* The goal of the risk level project is to develop and apply measurement tools to illustrate risk level trends. The results of the project are presented in annual reports. The report for 2005 will be presented on 28 April. (Link: www.psa.no/risklevels )

None of these hydrocarbon leaks were ignited, nevertheless, they are grounds for concern because the potential for a serious accident in the event of ignition is so high. A hydrocarbon leak with the lowest registered leak rate of 0.1 kg/s is equivalent, e.g. to the emissions from 2000 gas stovetops.

Following a meeting held on 17 June 2003 between the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (now the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway) and the operators on the Norwegian shelf, the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) established the GaLeRe project (Gas Leak Reduction Project) with Øyvind Halle of Norsk Hydro as leader of the steering group.

Specific objective
In addition to a steering group with broad representation from the industry, the authorities and the employees, about 60 people took part in a total of six working groups.

Øyvin Halle, head of the GaLeRe project
"We have focused our efforts on three areas:
management involvement, increased awareness on the
part of personnel performing the work and technical
condition", says project manager Øyvin Halle.
"The project's objective was to provide leadership, coordination and focus for an industry commitment to a permanent reduction of hydrocarbon leaks larger than 0.1 kg/s by 50 percent, to fewer than 20 leaks per year by the end of 2005," says project manager Øyvin Halle.

An analysis of previous incidents showed that 45 percent of the hydrocarbon leaks are due to operational factors, 31 percent are related to procedures and 24 percent are caused by technical factors. Based on these analyses, the working group has drawn up an overview of causes and commitment areas, and has submitted its recommendations for improvement measures to the industry.

"We have focused our efforts on three areas: management involvement, increased awareness on the part of personnel performing the work and technical condition. It is the extensive transfer of experience and implementation of the project's recommendations that has yielded the good results," Øyvin Halle underlines.

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