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Serious deficiencies identified by oil spill investigation

Failure to allocate clear responsibilities, lack of risk understanding and design shortcomings in the loading system were among the underlying causes of the break in the Statfjord A loading hose operated by StatoilHydro on 12 December 2007.

StatoilHydro has been notified that the PSA intends to issue an order in the wake of the oil spill, which is the second-largest in Norwegian petroleum history. The breach in the loading hose led to 27 500 barrels (4 400 cubic metres) of crude oil being pumped into the sea.

The notification requires an assessment of all the observations in the report and the identification of proposed improvements with timetables for their implementation.

After completing their investigation, the PSA, the SFT and the Coastal Administration have identified a number of non-conformances with the health, safety and environmental regulations in parts of StatoilHydro’s management system. The regulatory authorities take a serious view of this.

Inadequate systems
The spill was first discovered when it had become light enough to observe the oil on the sea. That reflected inadequate systems for detecting abnormal conditions or for preventing and limiting their consequences.

Barriers weakened
The investigation report found that barriers* which could have prevented the incident had weakened over a long period without remedial action being taken.
Responsibility for the loading system is spread over several business areas in StatoilHydro. This type of organisation requires the to management ensure unified control and to coordinate activities across organisational boundaries.
Follow-up of measures after a similar incident in 2004 has also been deficient.

Marine investigations
No damage to the marine environment has so far been identified as a result of the spill. A number of investigations were launched after the incident, but their full results are not yet available. A final overview of the possible environmental impact cannot be provided until these studies have been completed.
The direct causes of the break in the hose was the rapid build-up of pressure greater than this equipment had been dimensioned to accommodate.

The investigation report from the PSA, the SFT and the Coastal Directorate sums up the sequence of events and the underlying causes as follows:

• Failure to mobilise emergency response
The emergency response organisation was not mobilised, even though StatoilHydro had sufficient information to do so soon after reports of oil in the sea were received.
Failure to mobilise and delays to this process indicate inadequate understanding of the position. The incident was reported to the authorities later than the regulations require.

• Inadequate organisation and description of responsibilities
Lack of responsibility for the loading system in StatoilHydro over lengthy periods contributed to a failure to make an overall assessment of this equipment. Critical conditions arising from the division of responsibility for the loading system had not been adequately identified by StatoilHydro.

• Lack of risk understanding and robustness
Changes have been made to the loading system without an analysis being carried out of the overall risk these presented.
Technical and discipline responsibility for the loading system in Statfjord’s operations organisation remained unclarified for lengthy periods.
A lack of robustness in the loading hose was a consequence both of replacing the hose and of changing its dimensions.

Lack of control of changes
Insufficient control of technical changes made to both loading hose and equipment on the shuttle tanker has been identified.

• Inadequate maintenance management
The established inspection routines did not ensure that signs of wear and tear on the hydraulic hose were detected. Inadequate maintenance management meant in part that the replacement programme was not followed up, and that wear damage to the hydraulic hose was not exposed.

On 21 December 2007, the PSA issued an order to StatoilHydro to begin planning and executing an investigation of the broken hose. The company has complied with this order.

The Stavanger police department is investigating the incident.

Notification of order

Pursuant to the authority granted by section 3 of the management regulations concerning the management of health, safety and the environment and section 5 of the framework regulations concerning responsibility according to these regulations, confer section 58 of the framework regulations concerning individual decisions, StatoilHydro is ordered to carry out a review of all observations in chapter 6 of the report in respect of its own management system.
This review must:

1. clarify responsibilities in the units concerned as well as the interface between units for the total loading system, including responsibilities when loading operations are being carried out
2. identify weaknesses in preparing, implementing and complying with relevant governing documents
3. produce proposals for specific improvements, with binding timetables for executing these.

The deadline for compliance with the order is set at 1 June 2008. We must be notified when the order has been complied with.

An incident occurred on the Draugen field on 10 January this year involving the Navion Scandia shuttle tanker. This event has several features in common with that on Statfjord.
The PSA’s investigation of the Draugen incident – which also embraces Teekay – is now in its concluding phase, and the findings will be published after Easter. 

* Barriers: the regulations call for technical, operational and organisational barriers which can both prevent the occurrence of serious incidents (probability reducing) and/or that they escalate (impact reducing).
This emerges from the report of the investigation by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) and the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

Further information from:

PSA: Inger Anda, press spokesperson
mobile: +47 97 05 40 64, e-mail: inger.anda@ptil.no  
SFT: Signe Nåmdal, department director
telephone: +47 22 57 35 36, mobile: +47 41 54 52 28, e-mail: signe.namdal@sft.no 
SFT: Per Antonsen, principal engineer
telephone: +47 22 57 34 06, mobile: +47 99 44 03 91, e-mail: per.antonsen@sft.no 
Coastal Administration: Johan Marius Ly, director emergency response
mobile: +47 95 70 93 35, e-mail: johan-marius.ly@kystverket.no 
Coastal Administration: Ottar Longva, senior advisor
mobile: +47 90 63 92 95, e-mail: ottar.longva@kystverket.no