Photo: Norne FPSO; Source: Equinor/Credit: Kenneth Engelsvold

Regulator issues order following audit of Equinor’s Norne FPSO

Norway’s offshore safety watchdog, the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA), has issued an order to Equinor following an audit of the company’s integrated risk and barrier management on the Norne FPSO.

The PSA audit was conducted from 8-18 September 2020 while the report was published on 24 November 2020. Before the order, the PSA gave Equinor a notice of order on 27 January 2021. The order was issued on 16 February.

The purpose of the audit was to follow up that Equinor’s risk and barrier management on Norne is robust, so that faults, hazards, and accidents can be handled. 

The PSA wanted to verify that Equinor, through its work on including technical, operational and organisational barrier elements in its barrier management, has established barrier functions that detect, handle and limit the consequences of maritime incidents on the Norwegian Sea field.

The audit was focused on barrier functions established to handle the risk of safety incidents not caused by vessel collisions.

The audit identified eight nonconformities some of which are related to planning and prioritising observations in the Timp tool, human-machine interface and alarm handling in the control room, emergency preparedness analysis, and capacity and expertise.

It also identified seven improvement points some of which include risk reduction principles, using risk analyses of stability incidents, the involvement of the safety delegate service, and a system for ensuring that lifeboats are available at all times.

The audit also identified challenges with human-machine interfaces, a large number of standing alarms, and alarm avalanches. Another relates to challenges in the central control room on Norne since 2011, without these conditions being corrected.

Although an internal nonconformity is registered for alarm rates, Equinor has been unable to explain which compensatory measures are implemented to deal with this position until the nonconformity is corrected.

The unions and the safety delegate service on Norne informed the PSA in a letter of 11 January 2020 that concerns related to the CCR have been raised with the company over time, without this resulting in action”, PSA said.

As a result, PSA is therefore issuing the order to Equinor to ensure that requirements on analysis of alarms in the central control room are implemented to reduce the alarm burden and the number of standing alarms, which will allow personnel with control and monitoring functions to collect and process information in an efficient manner at all times.

Equinor must also ensure the provision of the necessary training and drills so that personnel can always handle operational disruptions and hazards and accidents efficiently.

Furthermore, Equinor must ensure experience transfer on handling alarms in central control rooms on the company’s facilities. Equinor has been given a deadline of 1 May 2021 to comply with the order.

Norne field

Equinor is the operator of the Norne field, which is located in production license 128 in the Norwegian Sea, around 300 kilometres west of Sandnessjøen and 200 kilometres from the Helgeland coast.

The field has been developed with a production and storage ship tied to subsea templates. Production from Norne started on 6 November 1997.

It is worth reminding that Equinor established that the resource base in the Norne area may contain enough to produce until the end of 2035.

As a result, Equinor in December 2018 received consent from the Petroleum Safety Authority to extend the operation of the Norne FPSO and associated facilities until the end of 2036.

Furthermore, in February 2019, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has granted consent to Equinor for the continuation of production on Norne FPSO with associated facilities for the Norne, Urd and Skuld fields in the Norwegian Sea.