PSA: No obvious improvement in barrier management

Statistics from “Trends in risk level in the petroleum activity” (RNNP) reveal positive developments in many areas, but certain factors remain causes for concern. The RNNP is a unique tool for managing safety in Norway’s oil and gas center.

PSA Director General Anne Myhrvold

The annual survey by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway of the risk scenario in petroleum activities – RNNP – shows that many indicators are tending in the right direction. Overall, the conclusions of the RNNP survey point to a weak positive trend in the risk picture in 2013.

The aggregate indicator for major accident risk is at its lowest level since measurements began in 1996. This is the result of fewer incidents occurring, with none of them being very serious. There were no fatalities in the petroleum activities in 2013.

“This positive trend demonstrates that efforts yield results. The industry has taken the necessary steps and acted purposefully in a number of areas. The PSA is nonetheless concerned that cost pressures in the industry will, over time, impact the risk level,” says PSA Director General Anne Myhrvold.

“We have got where we are today on the basis of explicit regulatory requirements, their follow-up by industry participants and their enforcement by the authorities. The focus on safety is also anchored in Norway’s policy ambition of being a world-leader in petroleum HSE. Safety is a perishable commodity, so it is now important to sustain the good work we have done in order to maintain and further enhance safety levels.”

Barriers remain a concern

The results of this year’s survey also show where considerable challenges still remain. In barrier management, the indicators reveal major differences between the facilities, not only in 2013, but also over the last decade. For some facilities, the failure rates are well above the expected values.

Barriers that work when they are required to are a prerequisite for safe operations. For this reason, the companies carry out functional tests of technical barriers under conditions that are as real as possible. Data from these tests are an important contribution to the RNNP survey.

“Despite the significant attention given to barrier management in recent years, we have regrettably not seen any obvious improvement. In the light of the focus that the industry has placed in the last few years on the prevention of major accidents, it should have been possible to make more improvements in this area than recent data show,” says Myhrvold.

Increase in hydrocarbon leaks

In recent years, the industry has focused a lot of attention on reducing hydrocarbon leaks. For 2013, nine hydrocarbon leaks of more than 0.1 kg/s were recorded. This is three more than in the year before. One of the leaks was in the 1-10 kg/s category, while the other eight were in the 0.1-1 kg/s category. The risk contribution from hydrocarbon leaks is at the lowest recorded level since measurements began in 1996.

But Myhrvold nonetheless entreats the industry to stay vigilant.

“The number of hydrocarbon leaks is at an all-time low. The figures from RNNP 2013 are the second lowest since measurements began. This is still an increase over the previous year and is cause for a certain amount of concern. The industry has experienced a positive trend in this area for several years. So it is important for them not to rest on their laurels, but to continue working for continuous improvement.”

Well control incidents

The number of well control incidents fell slightly, with 13 incidents in 2013 against 16 in 2012. For production drilling, the fall in 2013 is statistically significant. For exploration drilling, the 2013 level is at the average of the last five years, which is higher than the level of the preceding five years. The risk contribution, weighted for the potential contribution to loss of life, shows an overall increase in 2013 compared with 2011 and 2012. This is primarily because two of the incidents connected to exploration drilling are in the medium risk category.

Personal injuries

Serious personal injuries have shown a positive trend in recent years. The injury rate is now 0.48 serious injuries per million hours of work for the Continental Shelf as a whole.

There is, however, no clear indication of improvement as regards serious personal injuries on mobile facilities, and there are significantly more personal injuries in drilling and well activities on mobile facilities than on production ones.

Damage to supporting structures

In 2013, there were 10 incidents of construction-related damage which is a slight fall from 2012, when there were 12 injuries. The number of incidents in the period 2011 to 2013 is the highest in the period and represents a break in the positive trend observed between 2004 and 2010.

Qualitative study of construction and maritime incidents

Against a background of the negative trend in reported construction incidents on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, and the serious incidents on Floatel Superior and Scarabeo 8 in 2012, in 2013 the PSA instigated a qualitative study to examine construction and maritime incidents. The project was focused on incidents which might lead to major accidents.

The study concludes that insufficient attention is paid to the risk potential of construction and maritime incidents. Too few incidents are investigated, the investigations cover key causal relationships only to a limited extent, and there is at times a lack of understanding that these are safety critical incidents. Information exchange, both between the participants and between the different phases of a facility’s life cycle, should also be improved. The status of the construction trades involved has also been weakened in recent years.

Challenges within maintenance management

The figures from 2010 to 2013 show that several players are having difficulties fulfilling the regulatory requirements for maintenance management. Although the amount of outstanding maintenance for production facilities in 2013 is at the same level as in 2012, it is considerably higher than in the two preceding years.

Press Release, April 24, 2014

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