“The findings are good, but we mustn’t let ourselves be dazzled by them,” comments Anne Myhrvold, director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), which is responsible for the annual study.
Indicators for conditions affecting the level of risk in Norway’s petroleum sector are moving in the right direction, and Myhrvold notes that the overall indicator for major accident risk is now the lowest it has ever been.
“The results are good for major accident risk,” she says. “This year’s questionnaire survey also showed a positive trend for the health, safety and environmental (HSE) climate, perceived risk, the working environment and health-related risks.
“All in all, the RNNP findings for 2019 present stable or positive developments in most areas. That’s very gratifying. At the same time, it’s important for me to stress that we mustn’t concentrate exclusively on the good results.”
“This is a demanding time for very many, but safety demands remain unchanged.”
Myhrvold observes that the RNNP figures can say something about the industry’s work on risk management having an effect – in other words, what the companies have done right so far. But good 2019 results are no guarantee that future incidents will be avoided.
“It’s particularly important to remember that in our present position. Companies in the petroleum industry have been presented with big challenges by the coronavirus and low oil prices. This is a demanding time for very many, but safety demands remain unchanged.”
She points out that the Storting (parliament) has established an ambition that Norway’s oil and gas sector will lead the world for HSE.
“If we’re going to manage that, the companies must concentrate constantly on efficient management of conditions affecting risk. That still applies for our position this spring.”
Myhrvold also notes the importance of the companies making active use of the RNNP data in their work. “This information must play a part in their systematic and preventive safety efforts, so that a new major accident can’t happen.”
A brief summary of the main findings from the 2019 RNNP survey is provided below.
(Links to the RNNP report (in Norwegian) can be found at the foot of this page.)
Major accident risk on the NCS
The number of near misses with a major accident potential has shown a positive trend since 2002, and totalled 38 in 2019 – on a par with the year before and significantly below the average for 2009-18.
Less than five incidents per year are now being registered for most indicators related to near misses with a major accident potential. At such a low level, random annual variations must be expected.
Six hydrocarbon leaks were registered in 2019, compared with seven the year before. This was the lowest figure ever. For the first time, too, no leaks greater than one kilogram per second were registered. Six years have now passed since a hydrocarbon leak higher than 10 kg/s occurred.
Nineteen well control incidents were recorded in 2019. Eighteen were in the lowest risk category, while one was classified in the middle category (serious). Although the number of such incidents was higher than in 2018, their frequency – when normalised against the number of wells drilled – lay within the expected range.
Five cases of damage to structures and maritime systems were registered, compared with six in 2018.
The overall indicator, where all near misses are weighted by their intrinsic accident potential, was at its lowest level ever in 2019. It was down by a statistically significant amount from the 2009-18 average. Like the overview of near misses, the indicator has shown an underlying positive trend since 2000.
This positive trend for the overall indicator suggests that the industry has got better at managing conditions which affect risk. Although an indicator based on historical figures gives some relevant data, it provides nothing like enough information on conditions affecting future risk.
The industry is making increasing use of leading indicators, which can say something about robustness for withstanding incidents. Barrier indicators are an example.
Among other information, this type of indicator says something about the barrier’s ability to function when required. It still reveal big differences between NCS facilities.
While a positive trend has been seen over time for a number of barriers, which have lain over the industry’s self-defined requirements, the level has been fairly stable during recent years.
The 2019 RNNP results show that most barrier elements exceed the industry’s self-defined requirements. That could mean the attention paid by the industry to barrier management in recent years has also yielded results in this area.
Figures for fixed facilities show that the total preventive maintenance backlog was higher in 2019 than in the two previous reporting years. Where HSE-critical equipment is concerned, the backlog has remained by and large stable throughout the period. Nevertheless, the total number of hours in the backlog is low.
The number of hours for total outstanding corrective maintenance was considerably reduced in 2019 compared with the year before.
Major accident risk on land
A total of eight near misses with an intrinsic major accident potential were reported from the eight petroleum plants on land last year, compared with 10 in 2018. Seven of these incidents concerned unignited hydrocarbon leaks, while one involved a fire.
The seven unignited hydrocarbon leaks in 2019 were reported from four of the eight plants. Two gas leaks were between 0.1 and one kg/s, three were between one and 10 kg/s, and one exceeded 10 kg/s. The seventh incident involved less than one cubic metre of liquid.
No incidents involving ignited hydrocarbon leaks were reported in 2019.
Viewed overall, the number of near misses with an intrinsic major accident potential has been by and large stable over the past decade.
As on the NCS, the barrier indicators show great variations between the land-based plants. Their results have also stabilised in this area.
The total preventive maintenance backlog has shown a rising trend since 2016. However, the backlog related to HSE-critical equipment has been fairly stable over the same period.
Personal injuries and accidents
No fatalities occurred on the NCS or at the land-based plants in 2019.
A total of 230 reportable personal injuries were registered on the NCS during the year, compared with 196 the year before. Thirty-two of these were classified as serious, up from 25 in 2018.
Viewed long-term, the frequency of serious personal injuries showed a declining trend in 2008-13. Since 2014, developments have been more varied and an increase was recorded from 2018 to last year. The serious personal injury frequency in 2019 was 0.7 per million hours worked. This is not statistically significant compared with previous years.
Seven incidents which met the criteria for serious personal injuries were recorded at the land-based plants last year. The corresponding figure for 2018 was nine. A total of 9.7 million working hours were reported for 2019.
The serious personal injury frequency at the land-based plants last year was 0.7 per million hours worked. That was the same level as on the NCS. Compared with the 10 previous years, the injury frequency is within the expected range.
An extensive questionnaire-based survey was again conducted in 2019 among personnel working on the NCS and at the land-based plants. This RNNP investigation is carried out every other year.
Results from the survey provide an overall picture of the assessments made by the employees themselves about the HSE climate and the working environment in their own workplace.
Responses from the offshore workforce show that developments have been positive from 2017 to 2019. That applies to the HSE climate, perceived risk, the working environment and health-related issues.
The majority of the questions on the HSE climate yielded significantly better results for this survey than the one in 2017. Generally speaking, responses in 2019 were back to the 2015 figures, but not to the same positive level as in 2013.
Among employees at the land-based plants, responses also revealed a positive trend compared with the 2017 survey. That applies to the HSE climate, the working environment and health problems.