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RNNP: acute discharges 2001-16

Progress in a number of areas – concerns with three in particular. That is the overall picture painted by Trends in risk level in the petroleum activity for acute discharges (RNNP AD) for 2016 and 2001-16.

The RNNP acute discharges (RNNP AD) report is an extension of the trends in risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activity (RNNP) survey.

The RNNP AD is one of the tools used by the PSA to obtain the overview it needs where safety challenges in the petroleum sector are concerned.

Rather that evaluating the risk of injury to personnel, as the RNNP report does, it assesses the risk of incidents which could result in acute discharges of oil or chemicals.

The RNNP AD report shows that the number of acute crude oil discharges declined in 2001-16, as did near-misses for serious incidents which could have led to such pollution.

“It’s gratifying that the number of actual discharges fell over this period, primarily in the minor category,” says Finn Carlsen, director of professional competence at the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA).

“The number of near misses which could have given rise to serious incidents, including acute pollution, also went down in 20101-16.”

However, the latest RNNP AD report shows a negative trend in the total number of near misses for the 2014-16 period viewed in isolation.

Given the overall picture in the report and experience from its audits, the PSA is focusing on three areas in particular: well control incidents, subsea installations and chemical spills.

Well control incidents
“We are calling particularly for an improvement in preventing well control incidents,” says Carlsen. “We’ll continue to pay great attention to this area.”

He notes that such events have the potential to turn in major accidents involving both serious pollution and threats to human life.

“So it’s important that the industry works purposefully to prevent incidents of this kind.

“The same factors which reduce risk for people also prevent pollution. So barriers and safety measures are relevant for all types of undesirable incident in the petroleum sector.”

Subsea installations
The number of subsea production solutions on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) is increasing as new development projects increasingly adopt this approach.

“As a result, the industry must devote particular attention to preventing acute pollution from such facilities,” Carlsen emphasises.

He notes that companies are required to work for continuous improvement in the level of safety and to take measures which prevent acute discharges from subsea installations.

“They must also have barriers in place to identify, limit and halt any possible discharges from this source. These areas will receive special attention from us in the future.”

Chemical spills account for 80 per cent of discharges from petroleum activities on the NCS. Roughly a quarter of them are larger than one cubic metre.

These discharges showed no positive trend in 2001-16. Carlsen says that such results cannot continue and that the industry needs to show greater attention to acute chemical spills.

“The companies must understand the causes of the discharges and initiate specific measures to prevent them. We’ll be following up this work.”

Barents Sea
The PSA is currently doing a great deal of work related to safety and risk in the Barents Sea, where activity in 2013-16 was high compared with earlier years.

Insufficient data is available from the RNNP AD report to say anything about trends over time in this part of the NCS, or to compare it with other regions.

However, the figures so far do not suggest that the position in these waters differs from other areas of the NCS.

“The companies must work purposefully to prevent acute pollution in the Barents Sea,” says Carlsen. “They also need to know about other area-specific challenges in these waters.”

He emphasises that a commitment is now needed across companies and activities to prevent acute discharges from the petroleum industry in all parts of the NCS.