Offshore regulator follows up on Equinor’s Johan Castberg development

The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA), Norway’s offshore safety watchdog, has confirmed Equinor will not get consent for Johan Castberg until the operator corrects all nonconformities.

Johan Castberg FPSO; Source: PSA

The PSA started supervising Equinor’s development of the Johan Castberg field years ago, and a follow-up of the project would continue to be a high priority. Located in the Barents Sea, 100 kilometres northwest of Snøhvit, Johan Castberg is being developed with Equinor as the operator and with Vår Energi and Petoro as the other licensees.

The water depth is 370 metres and the field consists of three discoveries – Skrugard, Havis and Drivis – proven between 2011 and 2013. All discoveries are expected to be developed together, and the plan for development and operation (PDO) was approved in June 2018.

The field’s development is based on a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel with additional subsea solutions including 18 horizontal production wells and 12 injection wells. Its hull and living quarters have been built by Sembcorp Marine in Singapore and the company recently clarified its scope of work for this FPSO vessel.

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As the project experienced challenges, including poor quality of hull welds, this resulted in increased inspection and repair work. Therefore, the PSA conducted a number of supervisory activities directed at Johan Castberg in the form of verifications of the facility, audits of the operator’s management systems, meetings and dialogue, and an in-depth investigation of the project.

Equinor identified a very considerable number of welding errors on Johan Castberg and since the PSA became aware of these faults in 2020, it has followed up Equinor’s process involved in handling the necessary inspection and repair work.

The way the firm was ensuring that the safety of the facility would be maintained in the long term was also followed up closely. Whether the operator has established and is implementing an inspection programme as part of the maintenance programme on the facility is also being checked and monitored by the PSA.

When the PSA decided to launch an investigation of the Johan Castberg project in the summer of 2020, the aim was to identify the reasons for the challenges faced in completing the hull and equipment. According to the PSA’s statement, this investigation identified serious breaches of the regulations, and Equinor was given a legally binding order in June this year.

The operator is responsible for the safety during the Johan Castberg development and this applies to all phases of the operation, including the design stage, construction, and throughout the production period.

The PSA will follow up the Johan Castberg field closely until it comes on stream and on through the production phase, however, before Equinor can take Johan Castberg into use and start production, it needs to secure consent from the PSA.

Equinor will need to document to the PSA that Johan Castberg is complete and that it satisfies the requirements in the regulations to secure this consent.

The project experienced several delays in relation to the original plan. The start of production from the field was postponed from 2022 to 2024.