Statoil fined over platform negligence

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State oil company Statoil was hit with a relatively heavy fine of NOK 30 million (USD 5.5 million) on Wednesday, for breaking petroleum laws when it lost control of an oil well on the Gullfaks C platform in May 2010. Prosecutors hope the size of the fine will drive home the serious nature of the incident that some believe could have led to disaster.

Statoil continues to have trouble with pressure in a well on its Gullfaks C platform in the North Sea. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

Statoil has been fined heavily after a near blowout on its Gullfaks C platform in the North Sea nearly three years ago. PHOTO: Statoil/Øyvind Hagen

“Statoil has such a strong economy that it’s hard to ram it no matter how big a fine we impose,” prosecutor Harald Grønlien told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The reason we nonetheless landed on NOK 30 million is that we hope it will command attention.”

Frederic Hauge of the environmental organization Bellona, who had reported Statoil to the police after the incident because of risks Statoil took in terms of environmental and personnel safety, was satisfied. “It’s a very large fine in Norwegian context,” Hauge told NRK.

The incident on the Gullfaks C platform stemmed from a hole in a pipe that allowed liquids from a well being drilled to leak into the formation it was being pumped from. Hydrocarbons streamed into the well, forming gas that reached the platform. Regulators said the incident could have led to a blowout.

Petroleum authorities and the prosecutor ruled that Statoil violated the law by failing to have an adequate basis from which to make decisions during the planning and drilling at Gullfaks C, that there was a lack of competence during the planning and risk analysis of the drilling operation, and that plans for the drilling were inadequate.

Prosecutors admitted their investigation of the Gullfaks incident, which led to the fine, took “too long,” but they claimed it was highly complex.

Statoil officials have claimed they have learned from the trouble on Gullfaks and have been striving to make improvements in operations and safety. The company has four weeks to decide whether to accept the fine, or contest it in court.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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