This means that the authority will be in charge of developing regulations for and supervising the development and operation of offshore wind turbines.
Director general Anne Myhrvold is gratified that new duties have thereby been delegated to the PSA – outside the petroleum sector.
“This represents recognition of our broad safety expertise,” she comments. “Offshore wind power [OWP] has much in common with petroleum activities, and we’ll ensure that good care is taken of its safety through effective regulation and supervision.
“Although OWP is a new field for us, we have long experience of following up industrial operations offshore and the technical expertise needed to monitor this sector in a good way.”
The PSA has already been involved with OWP through Equinor’s Hywind Tampen development in the northern North Sea, which ranks as the first project of its kind on the NCS.
Due to become operational in 2022, this scheme is intended to generate electricity for use on the nearby Snorre and Gullfaks oil fields.
Since Hywind Tampen is closely integrated with offshore operations on the NCS, the government has handled it in accordance with Norway’s established petroleum regulations.
But it is recognised that a dedicated regulatory regime covering HSE in the OWP sector needs to be developed for future projects.
This work is now under way and will build on experience from the oil and gas sector, reports Sigve Knudsen, director of legal and regulatory affairs at the PSA.
“Our starting point will be the HSE regulations for petroleum operations, with performance-based requirements and a risk-based approach,” he explains. “But the content of an OWP regime will be different because other risk conditions apply.
“The experience we’ve gained with Hywind Tampen has shown that entrenching the regulations in specific risks for OWP works well. No major regulatory challenges have arisen in this process.”
Knudsen observes that, although OWP is a relatively young business, it has made rapid progress and adopted important safety principles from more mature industries – such as petroleum.
“We see, for example, that a number of standards and best practices have been developed. These can be used as normative references in performance- and risk-based regulations.”
Our starting point will be the HSE regulations for petroleum operations, with performance-based requirements and a risk-based approach,” he explains. “But the content of an OWP regime will be different because other risk conditions apply.
OWP and the offshore petroleum sector share common features with regard to both technological and operational solutions, and for the various phases of these activities.
That includes design, construction, installation, operation, maintenance and removal, while the two industries also have a number of parallels in risk terms.
The biggest difference between them is that the dominant petroleum-related risk associated with handling large quantities of oil and gas under pressure is naturally absent from OWP.
This means in turn that major accident risk is substantially smaller for the latter. But OWP nevertheless has a potential for big incidents involving multiple fatalities.
Although OWP is a relatively new industry, it has made more progress in certain other countries. The UK, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands are the European leaders by installed capacity.
HSE regulations vary between these countries, but a common denominator is that they have all placed regulatory authority with the same agency which supervises petroleum operations.
In the USA, too, OWP regulation has been allocated to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) along with oil and gas supervision.
So Norway’s allocation of responsibility for this sector is in line with the approach adopted by several other countries.
This article has been taken from our Dialogue journal, which aims to encourage debate on some of the most relevant issues and challenges faced by the industry in the safety area.
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