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Norwegian offshore risk report shows positive trend through 2014 but warns of “worrying start to 2015”

01 October 2015

Figures from the latest report from Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority show sound improvements in several areas through 2014, with PSA Director-General Anne Myhrvold concluding: "2014 was a good year, with no major accidents or fatalities”. However 2015 has started negatively with many serious incidents recorded, the report says.

PSA Norway Director-General Anne Myhrvold
PSA Norway Director-General Anne Myhrvold

The latest annual survey of Norway’s oil and gas sector risk, the Petroleum Sector Risk Trends report (RNNP), shows that many indicators are going in the right direction, and it points to improvements both offshore and onshore. In 2014, the major accident indicator was at its lowest level since RNNP measurements began. Hydrocarbon leaks and well control incidents are among the main contributors to major accident risk.

In 2014, seven hydrocarbon leaks were recorded on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and another seven onshore greater than 0.1 kg/s. This is the second lowest number recorded to date. None of the leaks had particularly major potential and, for the NCS, the risk contribution from hydrocarbon leaks was the lowest ever recorded.

For well control incidents a small increase was recorded, from 13 incidents in 2013 to 17 incidents in 2014. Assessed in relation to the activity level, there were increases in both exploration drilling and production drilling. However, 16 of the incidents were in the lowest risk category.

Serious personal injuries

The PSA saw a small increase in serious personal injuries from 2013 to 2014 on the NCS, but the 2014 level is still one of the lowest in the last ten years. For onshore facilities, the frequency of serious personal injuries halved, and the level is the lowest since 2006.

At-risk groups

As part of RNNP 2014, a study was carried out of at-risk groups in the petroleum industry. This was based on questionnaire data from the period 2001-2013.

The study's results show that some groups experience systematically higher risks than others, and that there are observable correlations between different HSE conditions and self-reporting of occupational accidents involving personal injury, work-related sickness absence and work-related health complaints. The study also demonstrated clear correlations between restructuring and downsizing processes and increased risk of occupational accidents involving personal injury.

"Although the results of the study only include data up to 2013, the industry must take these findings on board and be particularly attentive to the relationship between at-risk groups and change processes. This is something that the PSA will be keeping a keen eye on in 2015, now that savings and restructuring are so predominant in the industry", Myhrvold said.

Worrying start to 2015

Overall, the picture emerging in early 2015 stands in great contrast to the RNNP results for 2014.

During the first three months of the year, there have been several serious incidents with both major accident potential and personal injuries, and to date the PSA has undertaken as many as six investigations.

"Although in many areas the RNNP figures for 2014 are heading in the right direction, the start of 2015 has been worrying. This shows once again that safety is a perishable good. We are now expecting the industry to ensure that further developments in 2015 adopt the same positive trend as in 2014. The restructuring we are now seeing in the industry must not be at the cost of continuous improvements in safety", Myhrvold concluded.

Acute spills 2001 - 2014

On October 1, PSA also published the RNNP report into acute spills between 2001 and 2014.
Figures from this show a decline in acute spills of crude oil and near-misses over the period, alongside an increase in the number of oil-producing facilities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf in the same period.

"The trend is a positive one, but in this period we did not observe any reduction in the volume of actual or potential spillages. This gives cause to debate the effect of the barriers in preventing acute spills and staunching the development of incidents", said Finn Carlsen, technical  director at the PSA.

The figures also show that the reduction in the number of actual acute crude oil spills in the period was more evident in the North Sea than in the Norwegian Sea. The trend in the number of near-misses is also more uniformly positive in the North Sea, whereas the Norwegian Sea saw greater fluctuations.

The annual volume of crude oil spillage in the North Sea increased substantially in 2014. This is due to three recorded incidents in the 10-100 tonne spill category, of which two were among the 10 largest acute oil spills in the period 2003-2014. Both the incidents were spills of produced oil from the drainage systems of older facilities. One of the facilities was approaching shutdown.

These were a hydrocarbon leak on Statfjord C and an oil spill on the Eldfisk complex, both of which were investigated by the PSA.

Other trends showed the domination of acute chemical spills in the figures, and an increase in acute spills in the Barents Sea in 2013 and 2014 compared to previous years.

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