The year 2016 was the first since 2005 in Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry without fatalities or major injuries.
This was reported by the the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) in its Annual Offshore Performance Report, for the year ending 31 December 2016.
“2016 was the first year since the establishment of a national safety regulator in 2005, that no fatalities or major injuries were reported,” said Stuart Smith, CEO of NOPSEMA.
“Despite another challenging year of falling oil and gas prices, it was encouraging to see improvement in many safety indicators,” said Smith.
In 2016, the number of dangerous occurrences reported fell by 17 per cent, compared to 2015, with the majority relating to unplanned events. Analysis of the dangerous occurrences indicates that the vast majority required the implementation of emergency response plans and were the result of false alarms or inadvertent manual call point activation due to human activities.
No room for complacency
“These causes may provide reassurance to some, but NOPSEMA is concerned about the frequency of the occurrences and the risk of workforce complacency,” said Smith.
NOPSEMA also found that an increase in public scrutiny regarding ongoing and proposed offshore oil and gas activities featured strongly in 2016. The increased scrutiny reflects changing community expectations around consultation, engagement and transparency by the industry, the safety body said.
“These changing expectations place an onus on the regulator and industry to respond with actions that ensure maintenance of our social license to regulate and operate,” said Mr Smith.
To remind, environmentalist groups, including Greenpeace and Australian Greens, last year criticized BP’s drilling plans for the Great Australian Bight deeming it a disaster waiting to happen considering the area is a marine park.
BP eventually decided to abandon its proposed drilling program, saying the project would not be able to compete for capital investment with other upstream opportunities in its global portfolio in the foreseeable future.
Reflecting these changing community expectations, NOPSEMA conducted a focused inspection program in 2016 on oil spill risk management, to verify titleholder oil spill preparedness and response capabilities.
“NOPSEMA recognises and supports the industry’s cooperative approaches to oil spill risk management as they provide oil spill risk reduction measures not possible on a single titleholder or activity basis. NOPSEMA also sees scope for the industry to continue expanding these cooperative efforts so oil spill risks are managed to as low as reasonably practicable,” said Smith.