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Anne Myhrvold: Urgency in the High North

Anne Myhrvold, Director General of the Petroleum Safety Authority, hit home in her presentation of the PSA's expectations of the industry at the PSA senior executives conference on risk management and prudent activities in the High North last Friday. “The companies must form binding alliances, the industry must rise to its responsibilities - as a matter of urgency,” was the message from the Director General.


“The key to reliable safety in activities in the High North is cooperation. The oil companies must cooperate, the rig companies must cooperate, the unions must identify joint, viable solutions, and the authorities must cooperate. And, not least, cross-cutting cooperation is crucial,” said the PSA's Director General in her opening remarks.

Myhrvold was also emphatic about who has responsibility for safety in the High North, but that it is the PSA that makes decisions on consents to activities.

“The PSA holds the key to many of the decisions to be made about future activity in the High North. If the plans fail to satisfy the regulatory requirements, there will be no consents either. The PSA wants to avoid “forcing” the necessary development in the High North. The aim is for the companies, in consultation with the PSA, to come up with viable solutions before submitting the actual consent applications,” she said.

Arctic Safety - managing risk in the High North
The purpose of the Arctic Safety conference was to establish an arena in which the principal players and competent authorities could meet to exchange experience on safety in petroleum activities in the High North. The conference was intended for invited senior executives from the industry.

“There was nothing random about the invitations we issued to attend today. As executives, you are the prime movers in promoting prudent activities and ensuring both appreciation and management of the risks posed by major accidents to worker health and safety,” said Myhrvold to a full house of senior executives.

“When all is said and done, this is about preventing unwanted incidents, and about achieving productive alliances, taking responsibility - and wising up to the urgency of this mission.”

Technological development and alliances
Helge Lund, CEO of Statoil, delivered the opening address at the conference. He presented a number of challenges in the High North associated with factors such as technology and costs. 

“The High North holds some of the most demanding resources, in some of the most harsh conditions. Industrial development in these parts requires financial muscle, major investments and substantial technological development. This is why I believe it is the large and most savvy companies that have to lead the way,” he said.

Lund emphasised that Statoil is ready to take this kind of leading role.

“At Statoil we see a future in the Arctic, we are approaching the resources by degrees, and we believe this is the right way forward. We hold that technological development and alliances are key to our future success as an industry.”

Lund also highlighted the importance of transparency and of the companies demonstrating that they can operate effectively and safely.

“These days we have to own up to a fair amount of public scepticism about our industry, and especially surrounding increased activity in the Arctic. So, to succeed in these areas, we have to embrace an approach that is prudent and demonstrates that we can exploit resources responsibly. I believe we are best served by maximum transparency in and understanding of our activities.”

High-level programme
For the rest of the day, the audience heard presentations by senior executives from a number of major operating companies with experience of the Arctic such as Tor Arnesen of Shell and Meg O'Neill of ExxonMobil. The rig sector's experiences were presented by both Transocean's CEO Asbjørn Olsen and Sturla Henriksen, Director General of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association. The attendees also had the opportunity to hear about the Canadian authorities' outlook, while employee views of safe activity in the High North were presented by Frode Alfheim, deputy leader of IndustriEnergi. 

The PSA's Svein Anders Eriksson stressed the need to further develop industry standards.

“The standards provide a basis for joint appreciation of safety, and reliable standards reinforce the regulations,” said Eriksson.

Call for specific plans
In summing up the day's presentations, Director of Audits at the PSA, Finn Carlsen called on the group within Norwegian oil and gas devoted to the High North to come up with an overview of challenges in the Barents Sea, covering measures implemented, and problems yet to be addressed.

“I have participated in these types of discussions for going on five years and we've held many conferences where we return to the same agendas. But the time has now come to get to the specifics,” said Carlsen.