Statoil wrestles with safety concerns

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Norwegian state oil company Statoil has been catching headlines lately over serious safety concerns tied to its offshore platforms. Environmental group Bellona has claimed the Gullfaks C well could have caught fire last spring.

Statoil's Gullfaks C platform has been a target of safety concerns. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

Unions representing Statoil platform workers have been complaining for months and Statoil’s own internal investigation shows that the company made several serious mistakes before 89 persons were evacuated from the Gullfaks C platform last spring.

Unlike Bellona, however, Statoil thinks chances that the platform could have caught fire were small. Newspaper Bergens Tidende reports that Statoil’s report points out 18 measures to improve safety. Statoil also promised to change routines and reduce the production tempo to maintain better control over pressure in its reservoir.

Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm got involved in the safety debate at Statoil last week and Statoil chief executive Helge Lund called in top union representatives for a meeting, after they’d sharply criticized Statoil management over safety issues. The head of union YS in Statoil, however, caught criticism himself for failing to attend the meeting because he was busy remodeling the bathroom in his home.

Bjørn Asle Teige told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) over the weekend that he had no regrets. He said he’d requested the day off many weeks ago and received “only positive feedback” from his colleagues when he refused to drop the bathroom project to meet Lund.

“We had tried to put forward our concerns about safety for a long time, without response,” Teige told DN. “Suddenly the management wants to talk with us on a Monday night. So what?”

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