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UK offshore hydrocarbon releases reached record low in 2012/3, but major releases rose

29 June 2013

The number of offshore hydrocarbon releases reached a record low last year, new provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal. There were 97 incidents reported to HSE in 2012/3, falling from 133 the previous year and continuing a long-term downward trend.

Although the combined total of major and significant releases – those most likely to lead to a major incident – fell to a new low of 46, the number of major releases rose from three in 2011/12 to nine, the highest in the last 14 years.

The number of minor gas or oil leaks fell to 49, the lowest level since HSE started recording the data in 1996. Two remain unclassified.

HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said: "Hydrocarbon releases are a valuable indicator of how well the offshore industry is managing its major accident risks. The fact that the figures we are releasing today show the lowest number of leaks since we began this system of recording in 1996 is to be welcomed.

"However, while they show how much has been achieved in offshore safety they also confirm there is still more to be done. The rise in the number of major releases shows that there is a need for constant vigilance and attention as assets continue to age.

"HSE will continue to work closely with the industry and, where necessary, use our powers to hold operators to account for the effective management of risks in their business."

The figures reveal a 48% reduction in the number of hydrocarbon releases over the last three years – just short of the target the industry set itself in 2010 to halve releases.

The target was set following pressure from HSE to improve performance. In 2009/10 there were 187 hydrocarbon releases, of which 86 were classified as significant or major (84 significant and two major).

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