Equinor faces safety order over Snorre incident

Norway’s offshore safety watchdog, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), has issued Equinor with a notification of order following an incident in which safety functions were overridden at Snorre B platform offshore Norway.

Snorre B platform
Snorre B platform; Source: The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA)

According to the PSA’s report on Thursday, an incident occurred on 16 December 2020 at Snorre B that resulted in an emergency shutdown due to a high level of liquid in a flare knockout drum.

The safety authority explained that the incident arose due to an unstable oil level gauge in a produced-water degassing tank.

This resulted in the degassing tank shutting down. In an attempt to stabilise the processing facility and keep production running, automatic shutdown functions for high liquid level in both the degassing tank and flare knockout drum were overridden.

In discussion with the PSA following the incident, it emerged that there is an acceptance that safety features may be overridden in individual cases, as was done for the degassing tank in this case, in order to maintain stability in the processing facility.

This is not compliant with the requirements in the Activity Regulations, section 26 concerning safety systems, the PSA said.

The safety watchdog underlined it looks seriously at safety functions being overridden in an incident since this results in barriers that were established to handle the incident being removed when the incident occurs.

It is therefore issuing the order to Equinor to review its internal requirements and established routines for its facilities in order to ensure that overriding of safety systems is performed in accordance with the regulatory requirements.

Equinor has been given a deadline of 26 March 2021 to comply with the order.

Spanning blocks 34/4 and 34/7 in the Tampen area of the Norwegian North Sea, the Snorre field has been producing oil and gas since August 1992.

The field consists of the platforms Snorre A and Snorre B, and extensive underwater production systems.