Deepwater Horizon: Taking the lessons to heart
Much effort has been devoted to learning from the Deepwater Horizon accident. The PSA has already identified three key areas where action is needed to help reduce major accident risk on the NCS.
Following up rig disaster is essential
Improvements are also needed in Norway’s petroleum industry after Deepwater Horizon. This is one of the main messages in the preliminary findings from the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) on the Gulf of Mexico accident last year.
Assessments and recommendations after Deepwater Horizon
Preliminary conclusions by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) and action recommended after the Deepwater Horizon accident were presented to the Safety Forum’s annual conference on 9 June.
Focus areas for the PSA after Salazar report
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has now established a framework for reviewing US government findings on the Deepwater Horizon accident with an eye to possible consequences for Norway.
Industry asked to assess emergency preparedness
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has contacted the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) to stress the need to assess how good the sector’s emergency preparedness principles are for halting a possible subsea blowout off Norway.
Petroleum Safety Authority Norway project group
In connection with the ongoing situation in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) following the disaster onboard the Deepwater Horizon rig on 20 April, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) is working on a number of different scenarios. The goal is to assess all phases of the incident compared with Norwegian conditions and Norwegian regulations, so that any possible needs for amendments can be initiated as early as possible.
The PSA’s internal project group was established on 7 May. The group’s task is to define which aspects of accident need to be compared with the Norwegian petroleum industry, make the necessary assessments and define relevant measures. Several affected technical environments in the PSA are involved in the group.
We still do not know what caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The project group is therefore, for the time being, basing its work on the PSA’s theories regarding the matter, based on information collected from the channels available to us during this very precarious situation in the US.
The PSA has made gathering qualified knowledge of the disaster in the US a top priority. We will continuously inform our supervisory ministry, the Ministry of Labour, of all progress.
4 May 2010:
DEEPWATER HORIZON AND ITS RELEVANCE FOR NORWEGIAN CONDITIONS
The tragic events on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico have attracted great international attention, and have also promoted a flood of questions to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA).
A fire and explosion occurred on 20 April 2010 on the Deepwater Horizon (DH) drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), which is operated on behalf of BP and owned by Transocean.
This incident led immediately to disaster, with 11 of the 126 people on board killed and a number of others reported to be seriously injured.
At the same time, it quickly became evident that the well was out of control. Huge volume of oil are still flowing out into the sea and drifting towards land.
The PSA has received a stream of enquiries relating to these events, particularly from the media. At present, these questions primarily focus on the possibility of anything similar happening on the Norwegian continental shelf.
Others concern comparisons between Norwegian and US regulations and safety levels, information on barriers and experience with well control equipment such as blowout preventers (BOPs).
Some general but important considerations related to the GoM rig explosion are provided below.
- The PSA currently has no information on the causes of the disaster in the GoM, and accordingly can provide no specific assessments or comparisons with Norwegian requirements or conditions. As it becomes clear what went wrong, the PSA will continuously take the action required if the incident proves to be relevant for Norwegian safety work and/or regulations. As and when required, the PSA will implement measures in Norway at the appropriate time. Information on this will naturally be provided.
- The PSA is following the incident as closely as possible in the media and other channels to which it has access. Work is under way internally on possible scenarios related to the incident, so that the quickest possible response can be taken to the results of investigations and the actual accident inquiry.
- Although the PSA’s responsibility is related to safety on the NCS, it is very concerned to learn from incidents in other parts of the world – include the GoM tragedy. Transfer of lessons and experience, both nationally and internationally, will help to boost safety in the Norwegian petroleum activity.
- Learning from accidents and incidents is also a responsibility for the companies operating in Norway. The PSA considers it a matter of course that the players in the Norwegian petroleum keep continuously updated about the GoM incident and ensure that the lessons are implemented in their own organisations. Operators in Norway have an independent duty to work responsibly, and to conduct constant risk assessments based on all available knowledge.
- The PSA maintains regular contact with its US counterpart, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), both on the basis of a bilateral collaboration agreement and through the International Regulators’ Forum (IRF). The DH tragedy is likely to attract great attention over time in the IRF and in the bilateral dialogue between the PSA and the MMS
- It would not be appropriate for the Norwegian authorities to comment on regulations for and safety levels in the petroleum activities of other countries.
The PSA’s role in protecting the natural environment is directed primarily at the preventive side by helping to ensure that environmentally harmful incidents do not occur.
In addition, the PSA has a role in connection with the operator’s emergency preparedness for stopping a leak.
Questions related to oil spill response can be address to the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency (Klif). The Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) is responsible for the operational side of such clean-ups.
Both the NCA and the Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies (Nofo) can answer questions about the equipment used to clean up spills.
Over time, the PSA’s organisation will unfortunately be unable to handle the large volume of questions related to the US incident.
Neither the information department nor other specialist teams at the agency have sufficient capacity to investigate, assess and provide answers to all the question being put about this tragedy.
Should a major accident have occurred in Norway, the PSA would have mobilised its emergency response team in part to be able to inform the central government and the public about the position.