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MP barriers in 2013

Audits, investigations and mapping of the risk level in Norway’s petroleum sector during 2013 exposed relatively substantial differences between the players where barriers are concerned. These related to their understanding of the regulatory requirements for barrier management, and thereby also to their compliance with them.

The PSA sees that most companies still face challenges with regard to barriers. However, its efforts in this area have contributed to positive processes and initiatives in the industry.

Experience from audits
Big variations exist between players in understanding and complying with the regulatory requirements. Some have come further than others, but the great majority have learnt and understood more about the subject.

  • Statoil is an example of a player which has initiated good improvement processes. The model adopted by the company for framing and implementing facility-specific barriers and performance requirements goes a long way to meeting the PSA’s expectations.
  • Most land-based plants have developed documents which describe local performance requirements for barriers, and these help to boost knowledge of barrier roles and functions.
  • Considerable progress has also been made through case-based audits in influencing vessel owners over the development of performance requirements and strategies for barriers.
  • Contractors represent a steadily increasing component in the overall player picture, and a number of safety-critical jobs are done on barriers through maintenance contracts, well-service activities and the like. Ensuring that contractors have a good grasp of barrier management requirements is accordingly important. The PSA finds it has positive contact and dialogue with them.

Barrier management
Good barrier management is about more than the choice of technical and operational solutions in a planning or design phase. It will be equally important to ensure that barriers maintain their intended properties over time, and that a facility is always operated in line with the assumptions and conditions of its use.

The PSA has accordingly been a driving force through a number of activities in developing more coherent barrier management in the Norwegian petroleum industry. That includes its note on Principles for barrier management in the petroleum industry.

 This document occupies a key place in relating requirements in regulations and guidelines to relevant standards. The knowledge and experience it contains provide an important foundation for following up barrier management by the PSA and the industry.

Such follow-up made good progress in 2013, including the development of two documents which describe the function and role of emergency preparedness and maintenance in barrier management.

The note has been translated into English, reflecting the interest it has attracted from international regulators and others.

Work has also been devoted to defining operational and organisational barrier elements, and the results of this work will be incorporated in the note on barrier management during 2014.

Trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP)
The annual RNNP report provides the PSA with important feedback about barrier quality.

Serious incidents are reported, and their causes often involve barrier failure. The PSA also receives reports on the failure rate for specific barriers and barrier elements. That helps to enhance understanding, quality and knowledge, both at the PSA and throughout the industry.

Seminars and presentations
Barriers and barrier management are an important topic at many seminars and conferences, both in Norway and internationally.

The PSA is often asked to give presentations. Through the process of preparing, presenting and discussing these, it learns more while helping to spread new lessons to the whole industry.

Why this main priority is continuing in 2014

  • Much work remains to be done, both internally and externally, and important activities are under way.
  • The PSA’s main priorities send an important signal on defining prime concerns, both internally and externally.

Particular emphasis will be given in 2014 to

  • well integrity and control
  • hydrocarbon leaks
  • integrity of structures and marine systems
  • development projects in the early phase
  • the uncertainty and knowledge dimension in risk assessments.