Consents are a precondition for all activity on the Norwegian shelf. The HSE authorities – coordinated by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) must grant their consent before a production facility can be put into service.
The content of an application for consent is binding and is used as a basis for the authorities' supervision of the operation. The operator is obliged to inform the authorities if changes take place in the activities that do not concur with the assumptions in the consent.
The PSA can then conduct verifications to confirm that the activity is being conducted in accordance with applicable regulations – as well as the obligations in the application for consent. If this is not the case, the authorities can intervene by issuing orders, or demanding that the operator obtain a new consent in cases where the assumptions have undergone significant change.
The operations phase is the actual production period, i.e. the time during which a field, a production facility, associated pipelines and infrastructure are used to produce oil and gas. The operations period for a number of fields and facilities on the shelf may extend over many decades.
This will thus entail both technological, operational and organisational change and development. In other words, the operations phase is not a static situation, but a period continuously marked by new technological solutions and possibilities, changed framework and working conditions, and thus also new challenges in the field of health, safety and environment.
Maintenance and management
Maintenance means efforts and measures aimed at maintaining or regaining the function of facilities and technical equipment. In this sense, a uniform strategy and management of maintenance is absolutely necessary to ensure balance between preventive, condition-based and corrective measures. The maintenance tasks must be assigned the correct priority, e.g. in relation to what is critical for health, safety and the environment.
Maintenance management during the operations phase is critical, as is also the case when facilities and infrastructure begin to age. The companies must continuously reassess their routines and the frequency of maintenance as the equipment ages. Maintenance must ensure the functionality of equipment that is used beyond its design lifetime.
Extended operation and lifetime
The lifetime is often extended by phasing new equipment in with old equipment – with simultaneous operation and maintenance. Parts of the Norwegian shelf are considered to be mature; some fields are entering a period of declining production while others are entering their final phases.
Another development trend is the rising age of the facilities, wherein an increasing number are either already being used beyond the period originally envisaged, or where such extended use is planned. Wear and tear, corrosion (rust) and fatigue are examples of factors than can lead to increased health, safety and environment risk.
The industry is responsible for ensuring that older structures do not represent increased risk, and that the HSE standard is just as high as for facilities and equipment where aging is not an issue.
Operation in environmentally vulnerable areas
Changes in the activity also take place in connection with the opening of environmentally sensitive areas for various operations and activities. The precondition is no harm to the environment and other commercial interests. Safety and emergency preparedness measures must be proportionate to the risk associated with each individual activity.
The higher the risk, the more risk-reducing measures are needed; and the measures must be more comprehensive. Safety and emergency preparedness measures in environmentally vulnerable areas must be designed on the basis of extensive overall assessments, and must be adapted to the actual conditions, the risk analyses and the environmental risk analyses that the players are obliged to implement.