Oil spill incidents
The RNNP AU report shows that the number of incidents of acute crude oil spills has fallen in the period 2005-2020. The same is true of near-misses that could have resulted in acute pollution. The annual number of incidents involving hydrocarbon leaks from subsea facilities varies between zero and six in the years 2006-2020.
This downward trend in the number of incidents and near-misses is not reflected in assessments of their degree of severity. Annual spill volumes have remained at a stable low level over the past ten years, except for the years when incidents with higher discharge volumes occurred. Assessments of the development potential of near-misses vary without any clear trend.
"There is still a need to discuss the impact of the barriers on preventing major acute crude oil spills and stopping incidents from progressing. This applies to all petroleum activities, above and below the surface, manned and unmanned," says Anne Myhrvold, Director General of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway. She emphasises that a trend towards increasing use of subsea solutions must be supported by continuous improvement of barriers that can detect leaks early, and help to limit and stop the development of a hazard and accident situation.
During the period 2013-2020, there was much activity in the Barents Sea compared to previous years. The data from RNNP AU is currently insufficient to indicate trends over time for this sea area or for comparison with other sea areas. However, the data provides no grounds for assuming that the situation in the Barents Sea is different from elsewhere on the Norwegian shelf.
Chemical spill incidents
The vast majority of incidents involving acute spills from petroleum activities are chemical spills. More than 20 per cent of these are larger than one cubic metre. There has been a downward trend in the number of incidents of chemical spills since 2014, but there was a small rise in 2020. The trend in the annual volume of spills since 2014 has been upward. There were several incidents involving large chemical spills in 2020, and the annual spill volume is at its highest of the period 2005-2020.
"We investigated one incident of an acute chemical spill in 2020. Incidents remind industry participants of what they need to avoid. It is important to learn from all types of incidents so as to capture errors, weaknesses and failures in the system that the participant has in place to fulfil their obligations," says Myhrvold.