Norway may review oil safety rules after Eni ‘failures’ in Arctic

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway will review whether to tighten offshore safety rules after “repeated failures” at Eni’s Arctic Goliat platform including a power outage last week, a minister said.

Norway’s only oil-producing platform in the Barents Sea has been shut since last Friday, when a power supply loss triggered a partial evacuation, the second such incident since the 100,000 barrels of oil (boe) per day capacity platform started in March.

“We have received disturbing information about repeated failures on Goliat,” Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Anniken Hauglie told Reuters in an email.

Italy’s ENI declined to comment.

Hauglie has called a meeting next Tuesday with Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA), which supervises offshore installations and reports to the ministry.

“I will discuss with the PSA if there is a need to carry out inspections in a different way and the need for a different set of rules,” Hauglie said.

The PSA asked Eni to present a plan in writing by Monday on how to avoid new incidents on the Goliat platform.

“It’s been a long and winding road for Eni and Goliat. The number of incidents is worrying, and we see that we need to follow it more closely,” Eileen O’Connell Brundtland, a spokeswoman for the PSA, told Reuters.

Apart from power cuts, there have been several gas leaks, and one person was injured during unloading operations in June.

In January, the PSA asked Norwegian Statoil, a licence partner in Goliat with a 35 percent stake, to confirm in writing that Eni, the operator and 65 percent stake holder, was prepared to start production at Goliat.

O’Connell Brundtland said she could not recall the PSA had ever before asked a licence partner to verify the operator’s steps in the same way. She said that did not signal a lack of trust.

“We have granted Eni consent to operate the Goliat, and we haven’t withdrawn this consent. This is an indication of our trust,” she added.

Norwegian oil unions, which have members working at Goliat, complained to the PSA in June about what they called a lack of safety and communication problems with the management.

After the latest incident, some workers told one of the unions, SAFE, that they were afraid to go back to work, Owe Ingemann Waltherzoee, the secretary of the union, said.

Waltherzoee said union member have previously complained about safety at other installations, some operated by Statoil, but the number of incidents made Goliat “a special case”.

Brundtland said the offshore safety rules applied to everyone equally, but the PSA had “a magnifying glass” on Goliat because of the previous problems, including during the installation, when she said “serious breaches” of electrical system were found.

“In Norway, we have had a trust-based system between government and companies and it has worked well,” Hauglie said.

“Developments in the industry with several companies, several small companies, foreign ownership and cost pressures can put this system under pressure,” she added.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Alister Doyle and Nina Chestney)

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