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Survey reveals offshore risk

A new survey of workers on Norwegian offshore oil and gas fields reveals a lack of safety risk analysis. Some workers admitted that operations have been launched without measures to reduce the amount of risk they may involve.

One of the most serious recent drilling incidents on a Norwegian installation occurred on Statoil's Gullfaks C platform, when a gas leak raised the risk of blowout. It was averted. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

The survey, conducted by the state Petroleum Safety Authority (Petroleumstilsynet, PSA), questioned 231 platform chiefs, operations leaders, technical personnel and worker’s representatives. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that its findings have raised concerns among politicians including those from two of the parties making up Norway’s coalition government.

One out of four of the workers questioned said they “never” or “seldom” use experience from earlier risk analyses as a basis for new risk evaluation. One of 10 admitted that various jobs have been started without implementation of defined risk-reduction measures.

Nearly half of all production and operation leaders responded that they should have been more involved in minor improvement projects and modifications to oil and drilling platforms.

Those responding to PSA’s survey work on offshore Norwegian fields for such companies as Statoil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Esso/Exxon Mobil, Shell, Marathon, Talisman and Mærsk. The recent oil rig explosion and subsequent spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes the PSA’s report even more worrisome than it would otherwise have been, reports Aftenposten.

“When so many respond that risk-reduction efforts aren’t implemented, there’s major cause for concern,” the leader of the Parliament’s energy and environmental committee, Erling Sande of the Center Party, told Aftenposten. “We politicians are very concerned about safety on the Norwegian offshore fields, and we have a good impression of the companies. But this (report) tells us that we still have a job to do, to strengthen safety.”

Sande said he now expects the PSA and the companies to follow up and address the deficiencies.

“It’s worrisome when the oil branch and some politicians are so confident about safety (on the oil fields) when those working out there are so self-critical,” Snorre Serigstad Valen of the Socialist Left party told Aftenposten. He thinks everyone should be “a bit more humble” about the risk of accidents.

“It’s very serious when operations begin without risk analyses in place, or that people admit that risk analyses aren’t followed up,” Valen added. Others claim the report shows that oil field workers, also at management levels, can feel they’re not being heard and that they’re subjected to time and profit pressure.

The survey by PSA, charged with trying to keep oil industry accidents from happening, was conducted before the accident in the Gulf of Mexico, which has raised new concerns around the oil industry’s efforts to open up areas off Lofoten and Vesterålen for energy exploration. It will now be sent to the oil companies for their comments.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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