‘Goliat’ platform in trouble again

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The huge Goliat oil platform, Norway’s first in the Barents Sea, is still plagued by so many technical problems that safety regulators are warning they’ll issue an injunction to halt operations if the problems aren’t solved. The order comes just after Goliat came under new management and altered ownership this week, and as Norway must defend its oil industry at the UN climate summit in Poland.

The problem-plagued Goliat platform, before it was finally towed from South Korea where it was built to its working location in the Barents Sea. PHOTO: Eni Norge

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) noted on Wednesday that Goliat is often used as an example of all the reasons why oil activity in the Arctic is problematic, and hazardous. Since Norway’s Parliament approved the project in 2008 its costs have increased from NOK 32 billion to NOK 50 billion. Operations were delayed by two years because of problems with the platform that have persisted. Three years later, problems still threaten its safe operation. A recent inspection of Goliat’s electrical system by state authorities at Petroleumtilsynet uncovered 10 deviations from regulations.

“The errors and deficiencies are so serious that we’re warning of an injunction,” Eileen Brundtland of the state petroleum authority told DN. “There’s a long list of problems that must be fixed.” She added that delays in improvements combined with the deficiencies now uncovered “present a challenge for overall risk management.”

Immediate challenge for new company
The injunction threat was announced on Tuesday, just a day after the newly formed company Vår Energi formally took over as operator of Goliat, located 85 kilometers northwest of Hammerfest. Vår Energi is the result of a merger between Eni Norge, the Norwegian operations of Italian oil company Eni, and Point Resources, which itself is the result of acquisition fund Hitecvision’s purchase of ExxonMobil’s oil fields in Norway. The merger of Eni’s and ExxonMobil’s offshore interests into the new Vår Energi has created a new big player on the Norwegian Continental shelf.

Now it’s faced with immediate challenges at Goliat, after the petroleum authorities issued its latest orders to Eni, which still owns 70 percent of Vår Energi through its former Eni Norge. Hitecvision owns the other 30 percent.

Kristin Kragseth, an ExxonMobil veteran who has taken over as chief executive of Vår Energi, claims Goliat is “a fantastic, new installation,” telling DN earlier this week that it’s “very automated and digitalized” with workers who are “very motivated and proud.” She admitted that there’s still “massive amounts of work” to be done on the platform and that she prefers to move forward instead of looking backwards on Goliat’s long history of problems.

Vår Energi will now be making the decisions on the Goliat platform and field, along with its other oil fields in Norway. Andreas Wulff, the former communications director for Eni Norge who has moved over to the new Vår Energi, told DN that the company was familiar with the “conditions” revealed in the regulators’ report, and that correcting them has taken longer than planned.” He stressed that “considerable improvements” have already been made on Goliat. He said Vår Energi/Eni would respond to the injunction warning and otherwise had no further comment.

Defending Norwegian oil activity
Kragseth, meanwhile, defended Vår Energi and Norway’s oil industry, just days after the UN’ secretary general complained that it was taking much too long for climate negotiators to agree on ways of cutting emissions and limiting global warming.

“The world needs this energy (from Norwegian oil and gas),” Kragseth told DN. “And then it’s much better that we produce it in Norway in the world’s best possible manner, than having it produced somewhere else. I can’t understand why we shouldn’t do something we’re best at.”

DN reported that the new Vår Energi is now a partner in 17 oil- and gas-producing fields in Norwegian waters, with plans for 10 to 12 new oil field developments and oil investments valued at NOK 65 billion. Kragseth told DN that “I don’t think you’ve seen the last major acquisitions by us.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund