Photo: Deepsea Nordkapp rig; Source: Odfjell Drilling

Safety watchdog audits Aker BP’s well plans due to challenging location

Norwegian offshore safety regulator has carried out an audit of Aker BP and its planning for exploration drilling in the Barents Sea off Norway with a particular focus on the company’s emergency preparedness due to location-specific challenges.

The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) carried out the audit on 22-23 April 2021. The well 7234/6-1, with the prospect name Stangnestind, belongs to production licence 858. The well will be drilled using the Deepsea Nordkapp drilling rig.

Aker BP has already received safety consent from the PSA to drill the Barents Sea well using the Deepsea Nordkapp rig as well as a drilling permit from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).

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The rig has also recently been used by Equinor for a well in the Barents Sea, but the well has come up dry.

According to the PSA, Aker BP’s planned drilling is to take place in an area without a significant number of nearby wells to draw experience from. Large distances and Arctic latitudes may entail particular area- and location-specific challenges in carrying out drilling operations, the safety authority explained.

The PSA said that, during the audit, it paid particular attention to emergency preparedness when drilling in the Barents Sea and handling potentially karstified formations and high values of hydrogen sulphide gas (H2S) in a potential well control situation, as well as how Aker BP ensures that its management of health risks meets the regulatory requirements.

The objective of the audit was to verify that Aker BP and relevant drilling and well contractors comply with regulatory requirements relating to the planning, risk assessment, and implementation of the exploration drilling.

No non-conformities were identified during the safety audit, but the PSA observed improvement points in the assessment of decision-support documents and decision-making criteria for the chosen well control method.

The improvement points were also found in a plan for conducting training and exercises, analyses of and decision support for operational changes and follow-up of internal requirements for qualification of new cement mixture.

The PSA has asked Aker BP to provide its assessment of the improvement points observed. This feedback is to reach the regulator no later than 15 June 2021.

The production licence 858 is operated by Aker BP with Lukoil Overseas North Shelf (20 per cent), Petoro (20 per cent), and Equinor Energy (20 per cent) as partners.