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The Scotsman: HSE ‘takes companies to task’ over North Sea safety levels

EXTRACT: The HSE has launched an investigation into a complaint from offshore workers’ union OILC that Royal Dutch Shell was slow to act on a report detailing corrosion at its North Sea Brent Bravo platform.

THE ARTICLE

Thu 10 Aug 2006
NICK BEVENS

DESPITE soaring profits and record oil prices, some oil and gas producers are falling behind with work to keep rusting North Sea infrastructure safe for workers and the environment.

Ian Whewell, head of the Health and Safety Executive offshore division, said he had already “taken some companies to task” over the issue.

“There is a problem in the North Sea with maintenance building up,” he said. “Some companies are tackling it well, but others are having problems. If lack of maintenance affects safety, there could be a serious incident.”

He declined to say which companies were lagging on work.

Corrosion on rigs and pipelines is a growing problem in the North Sea for infrastructure that has often outlived its design shelf life, Whewell said.

Some North Sea facilities are 30 years old and working beyond design expectations of about 25 years, experts say.

But as global oil demand grows, the industry is straining to keep pumping near full capacity.

Part of the problem is that maintenance companies are already working flat out and cannot meet rising demand for their services in the North Sea, Whewell said.

The state of the global industry is in the spotlight after BP started shutting down its 400,000 barrels per day Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska due to corrosion on pipelines.

The HSE has launched an investigation into a complaint from offshore workers’ union OILC that Royal Dutch Shell was slow to act on a report detailing corrosion at its North Sea Brent Bravo platform.

Industry group the UK Offshore Operators’ Association (UKOOA) said that oil production companies have boosted spending on maintenance in the North Sea.

“Obviously asset integrity is a concern,” said UKOOA spokeswoman Trisha O’Reilly. “If we don’t have them in prime condition, we have no business. There is a lot of investment at the moment because the area of focus is extending the lifetime of assets.”

Related topic

North Sea Oil & Gas
http://business.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=181
This article: http://business.scotsman.com/utilities.cfm?id=1158482006

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