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Australian newspaper casts doubt on safety of electrical equipment on Ichthys offshore field production facilities

14 January 2019

In an exclusive report, the Perth-based West Australian newspaper says it has seen documents that call into question the safety of electrical equipment in hazardous areas on the Ichthys Explorer semi-submersible platform and Ichthys Venturer oil production vessel now producing gas and condensate from the Ichthys field off the Kimberley coast.

Ichthys Venturer and Explorer - Image: Inpex
Ichthys Venturer and Explorer - Image: Inpex

The newspaper said it had obtained audits of the facilities that reveal more than half the electrical equipment in hazardous areas did not pass independent safety checks.

Ichthys operator Inpex commissioned international engineering company Kentech to audit the vessels last year.
According to the West Australian, the oil vessel audit said the electrical equipment “introduced an unsatisfactory level of risk that is outside the tolerable levels acceptable at other comparable major hazard facilities”.
The platform audit said the work planned to fix the problems “do not, in their current form reduce the risk of a major accident event from the ignition of flammable gases by electrical equipment to as low as reasonably practical”.
An Inpex spokesman said safety was its number one value and it had a continuing, rigorous program to maintain the integrity of its electrical equipment. The spokesman said the company believed the audit reports quoted were early drafts. He said many of the comments reported were inaccurate or no longer valid and others had been taken out of context.
A spokeswoman for Kentech said they provided a snapshot at a set point in time. She said the comments reported were from early drafts and did not reflect the final reports.
A spokesman from Australian offshore regulator NOPSEMA said it had inspected electrical equipment in hazardous areas on both facilities before gas flowed. In a later report, the West Australian said NOPSEMA had requested the Kentech reports from Inpex and would review them.
The A$63 billion Ichthys project draws gas from beneath the seabed 450km north of Broome, Western Australia, and partially processes it before sending it via pipeline some 820km to Bladin Point, near Darwin.

The field was developed by Inpex in partnership with Total, Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas, Chubu Electric Power, Toho Gas, Kansai Electric Power and CPC. First Gas was achieved on 30 July 2018 and the first condensate cargo was loaded on 1 October 2018, followed by the first LNG cargo on 22 October 2018.

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