Statoil rejects blowout fears
May 24, 2010
Norwegian oil company Statoil continues to have pressure problems in a well on its Gullfaks C platform in the North Sea but denies there’s any acute danger of an uncontrolled blowout. The company, meanwhile, logged a huge gain just before the weekend on the sale of a major stake in a Brazilian oil field.
Statoil evacuated 89 workers from its Gullfaks C platform just before the long holiday weekend got underway. Changes in the pressure in a well yielded the “theoretical” possibility of a blowout on Wednesday. On Thursday, the situation worsened and the workers were evacuated while dozens of others stayed on board.
On Friday, Statoil announced that the situation was “stabile and secure,” but that it would take time “to plan and normalize” conditions on Gullfaks C. “It will be a few days before we can implement measures, and some days before they take effect,” spokesman Gisle Johanson told reporters.
Inger Anda of Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (Petroleumstilsynet), told newspaper Aftenposten on Saturday that “it’s a serious situation on Gullfaks C that has gone on for a relatively long time, but there still hasn’t been a blowout. There’s great accident potential, but for the moment, it seems they (Statoil officials) have good control.”
Frederic Hauge of environmental group Bellona wasn’t so sure about that. “All attempts to stabilize the well … have failed,” Hauge told news bureau NTB. “This isn’t acceptable.”
The Gullfaks C trouble is cropping up again just after British Petroleum continues to cope with its fatal blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and enormous resulting oil spill. “Now it’s important that they (Statoil officials) make good risk evaluations and act as quickly as possible,” Anda said.
It’s the third time in the past year that Statoil has had trouble with the same well on the Gullfaks field. Fears of a blowout also arose on December 23, and gas began to stream into the same well on April 30 last year, during drilling operations.
Big deal off Brazil
Meanwhile, Statoil’s corporate officials had much better news for investors on Friday, in announcing that it had sold off a 40 percent stake of its Peregrino field off Brazil to Sinochem Group of China. Sinochem is paying just over USD 3 billion in cash for the stake (nearly NOK 20 billion) and Statoil will retain a controlling 60 percent stake and continue as operator.
“The transaction confirms the high quality of the Peregrino asset, reflecting Statoil’s vallue added through the field development,” Statoil CEO Helge Lund claimed in a prepared statement. He called the “disvestment … a natural step in our continuous effort to optimize our portfolio.”
Production on the Peregrino field is due to start in 2011.