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Deepwater Horizon: Not only downhole

Widening the perspectives of work being done in the wake of the US disaster is a key concern for Kjell Marius Auflem, the PSA’s discipline leader for drilling and well technology. He also headed the PSA’s project team on lessons from Deepwater Horizon for the first six months.


This article was published in the publication "Safety - status and signals 2010-2011".

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“I’ve noted that most people are talking about technology, deep water, cement, BOPs, casing and tubing after Deepwater Horizon,” he says. “I believe it’s equally important to focus on responsibilities, roles and union-management cooperation.

“It’s gratifying to affirm that conditions in these areas are good in Norway, including a well-functioning system of safety delegates who have the right to halt work.”

He emphasises that a good safety culture is one which involves employees, shows respect for divergent opinions and tolerates challenges to decisions when life and health are under threat.

“That said, a number of technical conditions need to be looked at more closely after the US accident, including the design of BOPs.

“The PSA, acting on behalf of the International Regulators’ Forum*, has launched a study through the IADC ** and the OGP *** to assess this in more detail.

“Cementing and the quality of cement plugs will also occupy a key place in the technical part of the post-Deepwater studies.” 

* IRF: International Regulators’ Forum
**  IADC: International Association of Drilling Contractors.
*** OGP: Oil and Gas

Many lessons to learn
The US presidential commission’s report on Deepwater Horizon was published just after Hilde-Karin Østnes took over as head of the PSA’s post-accident project in January.

“This is a very voluminous document, which we’re going through in great detail,” says Ms Østnes, who comes like her predecessor from the drilling and well technology discipline.

“The report is fairly scathing in its judgement of the way the companies involved handled the conditions which led to the rig explosion.

“That off ers many lessons for the industry, also in Norway. But it remains to be seen whether these and other findings prompt the PSA to propose regulatory changes or the like at home.”

Although the division of responsibility in the PSA and its opposite number in the USA are very different, she also considers it interesting that the commission report so openly emphasises the need for a competent and clear regulator with adequate resources.

“It’s also worth noting that the commission deals with the industry’s independent duty to operate safely, and calls for a model which focuses more on the approach to risk and on enhancing the responsibility of the US industry.

“That coincides with the safety regime we’ve had in Norway for many years”.

This article was published in the publication "Safety - status and signals 2010-2011".