UPDATED: Norwegian state oil company Statoil was hit by three emergencies on three different offshore installations during the weekend. In one case, a fire on a rig forced the evacuation of scores of workers, and labour organizations are worried.
“We got an alarm from the platform chief (at 8:20am Sunday) about a fire and smoke in an equipment shaft in the leg of the Statfjord A platform,” Statoil spokesman Ola Anders Skauby told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
He said the fire had started in a pump. Helicopters evacuated many of them to the nearby Statfjord B platform, while others were ordered into lifeboats. They weren’t launched, however, and after the fire was brought under control, they could return to the accommodation area of the platform for a debriefing.
“A situation like that has to be taken very seriously,” Skauby told NRK. There were 67 people on board Statfjord A when the fire broke out.
Leaks on two other fields
The day before, another emergency struck the drilling rig Songa Endurance on Statoil’s Troll field in the North Sea. It had problems with a well that also forced an evacuation on Saturday. “There was a well-control incident on the drilling rig,” Statoil confirmed in a press release. The well was later secured and stabilized when a gas leak prompted Statoil to move 20 workers off the rig.
There were 107 people on board when the alarm rang. All workers not involved in the emergency work were taken off the rig. “We moved all personnel who weren’t handling the situation over to other installations,” Skauby told NRK. There were no reports of injuries on the rig that’s located on the Troll field west of Bergen.
On Sunday afternoon, more alarms rang on the Gullfaks A platform that’s operated by Statoil. There were 210 people on board, reported newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad, when a gas leak was discovered on the large oil and gas installation in the North Sea, off the coast of Sogn og Fjordane.
All of those who weren’t involved in emergency operations were ordered to lifeboats. Skauby said the leak was quickly plugged.
Labour organizations worried
Labour organizations representing workers on board offshore installations were expressing concerns about the safety situation following two years of cutbacks in the industry because of the fall in oil and gas prices.
“It’s too early to be concrete about these incidents, but we have rising concerns for safety levels, especially when there are cost-savings and cuts everywhere,” Hilde-Marit Rysst, leader of the labour union SAFE, told website enerWe. SAFE represents around 10,000 workers on Norwegian oil fields.
Rysst also told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that decisions are often made by land-based personnel who don’t discuss issues with those working offshore. She said concerns have arisen, for example, over the intervals between maintenance work, and that equipment is used for too long.
Statoil’s Skauby insisted that the “cost efficiency” programs within the company have not affected safety offshore, calling safety “fundamental for all operations we run.” Regulators at Norway’s state petroleum authority Petroleumstilsynet said they had followed the weekend incidents closely and were considering an investigation.