Statoil ordered to boost safety after almost fatal gas leak

The Norwegian offshore oil and gas safety body PSA Norway has issued a notification of order to Statoil following a poisonous gas leak at the Sture terminal on October 12, 2016.

Five persons were exposed the poisonous hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas, in an accident that could have been fatal.

According to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, the investigation identified serious breaches in regulations.

The Sture terminal in Øygarden municipality in Hordaland is a port for crude oil shipments. The terminal receives crude oil and condensate from the Oseberg area through a 115-kilometer oil pipeline and crude oil from the Grane field and Edvard Grieg field through a 212-kilometer oil pipeline.

The incident occurred during work on an H2S reactor in the cleaning facility for oily water. Two operators, an apprentice and two interns climbed to the top of the 14-meter-high H2S reactor to check its condition.

Toxic H2S flowed out through a venting valve on the top, and the individuals who had climbed up were exposed to the gas to varying degrees. Four of them eventually managed to get down, while the fifth needed assistance.

Accident could’ve been fatal

An emergency response was initiated, whose participants helped reduce the impact of the incident, at times at the risk of their own lives and health, the PSA said.

Five persons were hospitalized, of whom four were discharged after a day and one after three days. No material damage or environmental harm was registered.

The PSA said the accident could’ve been fatal under slightly different conditions: “H2S is a highly toxic gas. The dispersion analysis that was performed shows that the personnel were exposed to potentially fatal concentrations. Under slightly different conditions, one or more of the exposed persons could therefore have died.”

“We detected several regulatory breaches, including deficient management of activities, resources, processes and competence. The investigation also shows that there were deficiencies in the shift rota scheme and shift changes, and deficiencies in the management and execution of emergency response actions,” the PSA said.

The PSA has now ordered Statoil to implement necessary measures to ensure that activities that may lead to personnel being exposed to harmful concentrations of H2S or other hazardous chemicals at Sture are conducted in a prudent manner. The outcome of the measures is to be verified.

“The deadline for complying with the order is set at June 1, 2017. We are to be notified when the order has been carried out,”the PSA said.

Statoil’s investigation

Statoil on December 21, 2016 released the results of the internal investigation on the incident, saying as well that “in other slightly different circumstances the incident could have resulted in fatalities.”

“The investigation shows that the safety of the employees was not adequately taken care of this October day,” executive vice president for Marketing, Midstream, and Processing, Jens Økland said in December 2016..

Statoil’s own report emphasized several root causes of the incident. Inadequate risk understanding, inadequate skills and emergency response management, in addition to failing barriers in connection with the inspection of the H2S reactor are key elements here, the report said.

“The report forms the basis for measures including: specific operational measures such as more use of portable gas detectors and improved operational procedures related to the H2S reactor, as well as general actions to help increase risk understanding among all employees and improve the quality of the safety work,” Statoil said.

Offshore Energy Today Staff



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