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Warning North Sea oil platforms could be near collapse

STV News has been shown footage many platforms are severely corroded and have exceeded their intended lifespan by up to 20 years.

“All we’re waiting for is a fat hot spark to coincide with the next loss of containment and we’re away into a multi-fatality event, serious damage to the assets and probably huge environmental losses.”


05 September 2011 15:50 BST

Link to stv news report featuring comments by Bill Campbell: http://bcove.me/0u7ostns

Warning North Sea oil platforms could be near collapse

STV News has been shown footage many platforms are severely corroded and have exceeded their intended lifespan by up to 20 years.

05 September 2011 15:50 BST

STV News has been given footage which shows how close some North Sea platforms are to collapse.

It comes amid growing concerns raised by the Health and Safety executive that many companies are not maintaining the installations – most of which are now working decades beyond their intended lifespan.

Shell’s oil leak two weeks ago was described as substantial. Over 200 tonnes of oil spilled out into the North Sea. That leak may have been plugged but it has raised the question of how long it is before we do face disaster.

An offshore worker filmed pictures showing how corroded his platform has become through ageing. A few taps with a hammer and the gratings, hundreds of feet above the North Sea, fall away.

Fifty per cent of the oil and gas platforms off Aberdeen have exceeded their original lifespan, some by more than 20 years – a number which is increasing.

A rise in incidents due to maintenance failures has led the Health and Safety Executive to conclude there is now a high risk of a major incident.

Bill Campbell, a former auditor at Shell who helped conduct the investigation into the Brent Bravo accident in 2003 which killed two men, now campaigns for better offshore maintenance.

He said: “All we’re waiting for is a fat hot spark to coincide with the next loss of containment and we’re away into a multi-fatality event, serious damage to the assets and probably huge environmental losses.

It’s a very fickle thing: it could happen tomorrow, it may never happen again, but to operate with the potential of that is illegal, because we’re supposed to be operating post-Cullen with the risks as low as reasonably practical.”

In the past year alone there have been 432 dangerous occurrences offshore. In January Premier Oil’s Balmoral platform had two improvement notices served after the release of hydrocarbon gases.

The following month BP was served a notice for an equipment failure which caused the escape of boiling heating fluid.

In May two gas leaks were reported on the Brent Charlie platform and two months later a serious problem was detected with its concrete legs. It has since been shut down.

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