Photo: Oseberg; PSA launched an investigation at its B platform in April; Source: Equinor

Pandemic causes steep rise in serious offshore incidents, safety body says

The Norwegian offshore safety body, the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) has warned that the coronavirus pandemic and maintenance delays might have led to a rise in the number of serious incidents.

The PSA said on Wednesday that it has noted 50 serious incidents in 2020 – twice as many as in the same period of last year and more than four times the 2018 figure.

Although reported incidents this year have yet to be quality-assured for final classification of their seriousness, the director-general of the PSA Anne Myhrvold will be holding meetings with the management of all the large operator companies on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) about the safety challenges in the industry in the coming weeks.

My message to top management now is that they must now give priority to safety work so that we can avoid accidents and serious incidents in petroleum operations.

The operator companies are responsible for safety on their facilities and at their plants. They’re the ones who own the risk. We do not accept a trend with an ever-growing number of incidents”, Myhrvold said.

Record investigations

The PSA also launched a record 11 investigations so far in 2020. The most recent one was launched this week regarding a well incident on the Gjøa field when the drill string became stuck fast and blocked the blowout preventer.

According to the safety watchdog, preliminary findings from some of these inquiries show that company responses to the coronavirus epidemic may have had consequences for safety.

Anne Myhrvold
Anne Myhrvold

The majority of our investigations are still underway, and it’s too early to draw conclusions. But if these indications stand up, and the pandemic has actually had a negative impact on safety, that would be unacceptable.

We investigate the most serious and important incidents. It’s crucial for us that we have the most up-to-date picture possible of the safety position in the industry. Our investigations give us valuable information.

The operators must also have a corresponding picture and overview. They must be aware of and updated about the safety challenges in all parts of their portfolio”, Myhrvold stated.

The PSA also said that changes to maintenance work and their possible consequences for safety were also a cause for concern.

We see that the pandemic has led to maintenance postponements and changes to turnaround schedules. The companies assure us that they are continuing to carry out necessary maintenance of safety-critical equipment, but we see that delays to other necessary servicing are increasing.

The companies must now be on their guard, and avoid a lack of maintenance over time developing into a safety risk”, Myhrvold concluded.

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