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Audit of Gullfaks A - extended reach well challenges

During the period 24 August to 24 November 2005, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) conducted an audit of Statoil ASA's (Statoil's) planning and execution of extreme reach drilling (ERD) operations.

Gullfaks AThere is to drill well 34/10-A-32 C T2 at the Gullfaks A facility (pictured) to more than 10 000 meters.

The audit was started with a kick-off and working meeting with the land organization on 24 August 2005 in Statoil's offices at Sandsli.

The audit continued on Gullfaks A from 21-24 November 2005, with conversations with relevant personnel, inspection of the drilling facility and verifications of technical systems and documentation.

Background for the audit

With reference to performance indicators 2 and 3 in the award letter from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the PSA shall:

  • Contribute towards reducing the risk level for the overall petroleum activities.

  • Implement risk-based audits of contractors, operators, licensees, managers and owners.

  • Ensure that the players facilitate the technical and operational integrity of the facilities.

  • Ensure that the players prevent incidents that have significant potential in relation to major accidents.

  • Ensure that a good HSE culture is created in the industry.

  • Make the players accountable with regard to sharing experience.


Within the field of drilling and well technology, extreme reach wells are a priority area for the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway in 2005. There is a need to qualify new technology and new methods in relation to existing regulations.

Statoil is one of the few operators on the Norwegian shelf to conduct such an extreme reach well operation from a combined drilling and production facility. Through operations like this, Statoil utilizes its experience and a combination of existing and new technologies and methods, which were explored in this audit.

Purpose of the audit

The objective of the audit was to verify that Statoil plans and executes these types of operations in accordance with relevant statutes and regulations. The PSA wanted to ensure that lessons learned from previous similar projects and the exchange of information between the different players were safeguarded.

Focus areas for the audit on land have included:

  • Ensuring that the operator utilizes safe drilling practices.

  • Ensuring a satisfactory safety level in this type of extreme drilling operation, and also the likelihood of a successful operation.

  • That particular focus is aimed at planning, competence, and the suitability and functionality of equipment.

  • Qualifying new technology and components.

  • Safeguarding transfer of experience.

Focus areas for the audit on the facility have included:

  • The execution of safe job analyses (SJA).

  • Planning meetings, shift meetings, preparation meetings and safety meetings.

  • Application of risk analysis done prior to the activity.

  • Follow-up of incidents, nonconformities and previous investigations.

  • The verification of daily drilling reports, the use of procedures and governing documentation.

  • The personnel's group competence and the individual's job introduction program.

  • Follow-up on lessons learned and change logs.

  • Review of the maintenance system.

  • Verification in drilling areas.


Result of the audit

Statoil has gathered the necessary cutting-edge expertise and completed comprehensive work in connection with planning, holding seminars and personnel training. The qualification of new technology and equipment components has been crucial to the implementation of this drilling operation from a permanent drilling and production facility.

The introduction of new downhole drilling equipment has been in accordance with the intentions, and experiences gained from this first well will be implemented in the planning and execution of the next well.

On the facility we have noted good use of governing documentation, updated procedures, detailed programs and 24-hour activity plans with approved status from both the operator and drilling contractor. The organizational factors verified included a robust level of drilling personnel, with additional positions during this activity.

Cooperation between the operator, drilling contractor and well service company was smooth.

During the audit, we have found nonconformities in the capacity and robustness of an aging drilling facility. These factors are described more fully in Chapter 5 of the audit report concerning observations made during the audit.

We have had good discussions with the involved personnel and beneficial conversations with Safety Delegates (VOs) and the Main Safety Delegate (HVO) on the facility.

Contact in the PSA:
Mike Theiss