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Notification of order to Statoil following serious lifting incident on Heidrun

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has issued Statoil Petroleum AS (Statoil) a notification of order following a serious lifting incident on Heidrun on 15 April. The incident has clear similarities with a number of serious lifting incidents in the drilling area in recent years. As a consequence, the notification of order applies to all drilling operations on fixed and mobile facilities where Statoil is the operator.

On 15 April, the PSA was notified that, during a lifting operation, a section of drill pipe weighing about 3500 kg had come loose from the lifting gear, and that the end of the pipe fell approx. 10 metres down on to the drill floor. There were three people in the area, but they were fortunately outside the fall zone.

Despite the serious character of the incident, the PSA decided not to institute its own investigation. An important reason for the decision was the difficulty in getting investigators out to the facility as a result of the shutdown in aviation traffic following the volcanic eruption over Iceland and spread of ash in Norwegian airspace.

Instead, we are following up the incident through dialogue with Statoil, which has initiated an investigation. The Kristiansund Police have also requested expert assistance from the PSA in their investigation of the incident.

Many similar incidents
The course of events on Heidrun is already sufficiently clear to ascertain obvious similarities with previous serious lifting incidents in the drilling area on facilities where Statoil has been the operator, such as on Transocean Searcher (2007), West Epsilon (2007), Heidrun (2008), Stena Don (2009) and Deepsea Atlantic (2009).

An audit has also been conducted on Oseberg Øst in 2010 targeting logistics/cranes/lifts. The report is not yet complete, but the audit reveals that Statoil's professional competence in the area of crane and lifting operations is only occasionally involved in important work processes, and then only to a very limited degree. Examples of such work processes are rig acceptance, drilling & wells and mobilisation of third-party equipment.

Both the incidents and the observations in audit activities over a number of years generally reveal weaknesses related to

  • special-purpose lifting gear in the drilling area
  • actual knowledge and use of recommended standards for safe implementation of lifting operations
  • safeguarding the operator's supervisory duty

Notification of order
Based on the serious incident on Heidrun, the history and audit observations, we have notified Statoil that the company is ordered to

  • identify all special-purpose lifting gear in the drilling area and ensure that such gear meets the regulatory requirements
  • verify and implement measures to ensure that NORSOK R-003N is implemented and practiced in the drilling areas. (Note: Statoil has used NORSOK R-003N as a basis for lifting operations in its own management system)
  • consider and decide how the company will learn from previous incidents and use experience to prevent lifting incidents in the drilling area throughout the organisation

The deadline for complying with the order is set at 15 August 2010. We must be notified when the order has been carried out.

Any comments concerning the order must be received by 18 May 2010.

About “orders” vs. “notification of order":
An order is a administrative decision made pursuant to the regulations. Before we issue an order, we usually submit a "notification of order" to the companies involved.

A notification of order is neither a measure nor a warning of sanctions, but part of our administrative process in accordance with the established rules of procedure.

The notification is just a first step before an administrative decision is made.