Norway’s Labour Minister Anniken Hauglie has vowed that the chronically troubled Goliat platform in the Barents Sea won’t be allowed to restart operations until all its problems are corrected. It’s been shut down once again by the state petroleum agency, at a time when safety concerns on offshore oil installations are rising.
“There is no doubt that there have been some great challenges with Goliat since it was being built in South Korea,” Hauglie told news bureau NTB. It’s been “stop and go” since it anchored up on the Goliat field northwest of Hammerfest last year, and problems have kept occurring.
Two weeks ago, a false gas alarm sent all crew on board the platform scrambling for the lifeboats, while two helicopters flew out to the platform. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that the “scandal platform” has been out of operation for a total of two months.
It was the 10th time that those an board went in the lifeboats. Øyvind Midttun of Petroleumstilsynet, the state regulatory agency for offshore installations, said he was at least glad that the crew reacted and preparedness functioned. “The alarm went off in connection with some maintenance work,” he told DN.
The next day, however, in early November, DN reported that Goliat’s operator, Italian oil company Eni, defied state authorities and restarted production earlier this fall despite some serious problems and warnings from Petroleumstilsynet. Serious deficiencies in Goliat’s electrical system led to a confrontation between Eni Norge and Petroleumstilsynet, which ordered Eni to shut down oil production again on October 5. It cited explosion danger.
The ongoing trouble on Goliat sparked reaction from bipartisan Members of Parliament last week. Several MPs from the Conservatives to the Socialist Left party (SV) have reacted to reports of safety violations on Goliat.
“I’m upset … this is much too far from what we should be able to expect from operators on the Norwegian Continental Shelf,” Tina Bru, energy policy spokesperson for the Conservatives. “It’s incredible that they (Eni) chose to restart operations despite warnings from Petroleumstilsynet.” She took up the issue with both Hauglie and Oil & Energy Minister Terje Søviknes. Lars Haltbrekken, a new MP for SV called Goliat “a scandal platform from A to Z.”
Other safety concerns
That’s what prompted the recent assurances from Hauglie that Goliat, Norway’s largest and most complex floating production vessel, will not be restarted until the authorities approve all ordered improvements.
Other oil platform safety concerns, meanwhile, have been rising over language problems on board the offshore installations. Labour union officials want Norwegian to be the official language, but with many non-Norwegians working offshore, English often becomes a common language. When a Norwegian and a Polish worker communicate in English, however, misunderstandings can flare up, according to Håkon Aasen Bjerkeli of the labour organization Industi Energi.
“It can be quite worrisome that as of today, a language other than Norwegian has snuck onto the Norwegian oil fields without anyone making a risk evaluation of what that can lead to,” Bjerkeli told news burean ANB. “It can potentially reduce safety directly.”