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The sooner the better

Closer follow-up in the initial stage of a project ensures fewer nonconformities and reduces the need for difficult and expensive modifications. The PSA now aims to step up such monitoring.


Many decisions have to be taken when a field is being developed or substantially modified. And each of these choices will influence the final level of safety.

The PSA’s involvement in such projects normally begins when the operator submits a plan for development and operation (PDO) for government approval. By then it is usually too late. Once a PDO has been completed, many of the most important decisions have already been taken and it will be hard, very expensive and in some case impossible to make changes.

“Becoming involved sooner means we can be a driving force and help ensure that acceptable safety solutions are chosen as early as possible,” says Bjørn Thomas Bache at the PSA.

Benefit
As its head of structural integrity, he has been working over the past year on a new follow-up strategy for such projects. Both government and industry will clearly benefit, he says.

“The advantage for the companies lies in making the right choices early and thereby avoiding demanding and expensive changes later. And we make more effective use of our resources.”

Bache points to section 26 of the framework regulations on documentation in the early phase, which requires the PSA to be informed about new projects while the PDO is at the planning stage. This reads:

“When a decision has been made to prepare plans with a view toward approval or consent pursuant to sections 4-2 and 4-3 of the Petroleum Act, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway shall be informed of when this planning starts. The plans shall document how the work will be organised, managed and carried out, as well as include information on the competence required to carry out the work.”

That provision gives the PSA opportunities to follow up the management and choice of solutions at an early stage, observes Bache.

“We can then help the players comply with the regulatory requirements as well as possible. But it wouldn’t be relevant to use formal reactions in this early phase.”

Forthcoming
The PSA has followed up Statoil’s forthcoming Johan Castberg development in the Barents Sea closely together with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

Experience from this project has provided a good basis for continuing its work on early phase supervision, Bache says.

“We’ve seen that it’s important to have an overall view of the project, and to be conscious of the milestones in the preliminary phase and when choosing the development concept.

“Contract awards and project management are important for ensuring that unwanted aspects get eliminated. It’s also crucial that the companies are conscious of the regulatory requirements.”

The PSA is now planning a seminar on project execution, where the industry will be able to make suggestions about early-phase work and share experience with other players and the government.