Offshore watchdog spots no irregularities in permanent plugging of wells at Equinor’s North Sea field

Offshore watchdog checks up on Equinor’s preparations for plug & abandonment ops in North Sea

Norwegian offshore safety regulator has found no irregularities nor improvement points following an audit pertaining to the permanent plugging of wells at an Equinor-operated North Sea field as the state-owned giant gets ready for decommissioning activities.

Veslefrikk field in the North Sea; Credit: Øyvind Hagen/Equinor

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) reported on Tuesday that it had carried out an audit of Equinor focused on the permanent plugging of wells on the Veslefrikk field. The audit was conducted on 30 September 2021.

The offshore regulator explained that the objective of the audit was to monitor Equinor’s system for preparing, planning and executing the permanent plugging of wells on the Veslefrikk field to ensure it complies with the regulatory requirements.

During the audit, the PSA examined how Equinor plans and follows up the verification of well barriers along with the use of new technology/methods/new materials. The offshore watchdog also reviewed Equinor’s assessment of risk and associated uncertainty, changes in operational sequencing and the implementation of lessons learned from completed operations.

Afterwards, the regulator confirmed no nonconformities and improvement points were identified during the audit. It is worth reminding that following a letter of intent from March 2021 in preparation for the decommissioning activities of Equinor’s Heimdal and Veslefrikk, Aker Solutions formally signed a sizeable contract award with Heerema Marine Contractors at the end of December 2021.

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Veslefrikk is an oil field in the Northern parts of the North Sea which has been in operation since 1989. On the Veslefrikk field, Aker Solutions’ scope is to dismantle and recycle the wellhead platform Veslefrikk A as well as a subsea pre-drilling template at its decommissioning facilities at Eldøyane in Stord, Norway.

The decommissioning plan for Equinor’s Heimdal gas and condensate field in the Northern part of the North Sea includes removing, dismantling, and recycling the main platform topsides and jacket.

As previously reported, the early-phase engineering is expected to begin in 2022 and the structures are currently anticipated to arrive at Stord between 2024 and 2026, with project completion scheduled for 2027.