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EU move over offshore safety

It is now accepted by the establishment that following the Brent Bravo fatalities installations like Gannet were found to have similar problems but continued to operate with dangerous risk levels.  This information was not given to the public prosecutors by the HSE who were desperately trying to cover up their own criminal neglect.

EU move over offshore safety

By Ryan Crighton and Ross Davidson: Published: 28/10/2011

The European Union announced plans last night to seize regulatory control of the oil and gas industry – and it wants operators to put up more than £100million a year to pay for it.

Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said the likelihood of a major offshore accident remained “unacceptably high” after BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster last year – and a new safety regime was needed.

Under draft plans revealed in Brussels yesterday, the EU would set the rules governing safety in the North Sea and how those rules were met.

They include proposals to make companies prepare detailed major-hazard reports outlining how they would tackle emergencies – before they are given permission to drill. Information on all spills would be made available to the public, and licensing laws would be tightened to ensure firms have the technical and financial capability to explore.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE FROM ABERDEEN PRESS & JOURNAL

COMMENT BY RETIRED ROYAL DUTCH SHELL HSE GROUP AUDITOR, BILL CAMPBELL: 4 March 2012

We probably need more men in suits with oversight over health and safety like a hole in the head – better yet to make the current so called robust safety regime more robust.

When the EU fellow says there is likely to be another major accident event which the current regime seems unable to prevent then I have some sympathy. Whether he and his team of Brussels bureaucrats can reduce the risks of such an event is difficult if not impossible to judge.

What is clear in the UK is that there is an establishment perspective that thing are under control and getting better.  For example, an improvement in the reduction of 85 to 73 major hydrocarbon releases per annum (and lets agree such releases have at least the potential of a Piper or Deepwater Horizon) was heralded by the regulator and their political masters, in their Ministries, as a SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT.  This in Risk terms is just so much horse manure.

Any competent risk analyst will tell you that a reduction in releases from 1 per every 4 days on average to 1 every 5 days is statistically insignificant and has no appreciable effect on risk levels, we would need a reduction from 85 to circa 8 to achieve an order of magnitude reduction, a significant reduction.

So the risks remain unaltered and by definition for the oilfield such risks are well above the ALARP levels that could/should be achievable.

So the EU fellow has some merit in what he says.  Let’s consider just one example of our ROBUST safety regime.  It is now accepted by the establishment that following the Brent Bravo fatalities installations like Gannet were found to have similar problems but continued to operate with dangerous risk levels. This information was not given to the public prosecutors by the HSE who were desperately trying to cover up their own criminal neglect.

Gannet had 47 unapproved temp repairs, in fact none of the repairs were approved on the installation and a number were materially defective such as the repair that caused the fatalities on Bravo, 417 odd fire and gas sensors which were unreliable, ESD valve test results were falsified and valves which were known to be unreliable,  and the permit to work system had chronic weaknesses in its application.

To give this a modern perspective this installation was evacuated of non-essential staff 14 days or so ago because of a significant gas leak and last year suffered the largest oil leak by volume in the UK history.  The Shell technical director accepted after that leak that there had been neglect of maintenance and improvements were necessary and newspapers carry stories recently that audits and inspections on Gannet were two years overdue.

Now our reactive regulator will no doubt prosecute after the fact and after the risks have been approaching intolerable for many months or years.  Hardly evidence to support the Government sponsored description of a robust safety regime.

So in my book good luck to the EU fellow, he can hardly make the situation any worse.  Hope springs eternal that some competition, some fresh eyes, will boot our decision makers out of their  institutional complacency before we have to get the body bags out yet again.

Bill

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