Equinor ordered to address organisational, technical and safety challenges at North Sea platform

Regulatory order for Equinor over maintenance management on North Sea platform

After carrying out an audit into a field life extension (FLX) unit and maintenance management on one of the Equinor-operated offshore platforms in the North Sea off Norway, the Norwegian offshore safety regulator followed it up with an order to the operator.

Statfjord A platform; Credit: Harald Pettersen/Equinor

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) reported on Tuesday that it had issued an order to Equinor following an audit of its field life extension unit and maintenance management on Statfjord A, which was conducted from 21-30 June 2022.

The PSA explains that this audit identified serious breaches of the regulations and, while the report remains under preparation, the offshore regulator decided that an immediate reaction is necessary for some of the conditions it observed.

During the audit, the PSA identified “big differences” in perception between the Equinor FLX/onshore organisation and personnel on Statfjord A about the decision base for setting priorities and the technical condition of the facility.

Furthermore, a meeting was held at the PSA on 5 July 2022 as part of the audit, with reviews from Equinor FLX concerning the level of safety and processes for improving robustness.

According to the regulator, this review, supplemented with descriptions of processes and conditions on board, strengthened its impression that the Equinor FLX/onshore organisation has not rooted its assessments and priorities in the “necessary knowledge” of technical and organisational conditions on Statfjord A.

The PSA underlines that the factual basis for decisions “must rest on the existing conditions and on the actual design and technical condition of the facility.”

In line with this, management of health, safety and the environment must comprise the activities, resources, processes and organisation necessary to ensure prudent activities and continuous improvement, highlights the offshore regulator.

The offshore watchdog points out that deficiencies in the decision basis mean that plans for implementing assignments on Statfjord A are insufficiently matured. Moreover, the PSA observes that the actual technical and organisational conditions of the facility require the use of compensatory measures and the need for supplementary resources or reprioritising activities when executing the assignments.

Statfjord A platform; Credit: Harald Pettersen/Equinor
Statfjord A platform; Credit: Harald Pettersen/Equinor

On that basis, Equinor has now been ordered to verify that the assumptions which form the basis for safe operation of the Statfjord A platform are valid. This needs to be done by ensuring that the relevant technical specialists and user groups with facility-specific expertise are involved, so that information on organisational, technical and safety challenges on the platform forms the basis for assessments and decision.

This, in turn, is expected to ensure that issues relating to health, safety and the environment are comprehensively and adequately illuminated by acquiring, processing and communicating necessary information to relevant users before decisions are taken.

In addition, the Norwegian state-owned giant has been ordered to assess and describe how measures to increase robustness and improve barrier weaknesses are prioritised on this platform in combination with other activities and resources this requires. This needs to be undertaken, so that, the plans fulfil the requirements for health, safety and the environment and that the resources required for executing the planned activities are available to the project and operations organisation.

The Petroleum Safety Authority confirms that the deadline for compliance with this order is 30 September 2022.

The Statfjord field is located in the Tampen area in the northern part of the North Sea on the border between the Norwegian and British sectors. The Norwegian share of the field is 85.47 per cent and the water depth at the site is 150 metres. Discovered in 1974, the Statfjord field has been developed with three production platforms: Statfjord AStatfjord B, and Statfjord C. Statfjord A came into production in 1979.

In related news, the safety watchdog in May 2022 opened an investigation into a gas leak incident on the Statfjord B platform.

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This incident happened in connection with running up the process plant after a shutdown for a turnaround and the gas leak activated several detectors.