Oil & Gas UK: Offshore safety continues to improve

The UK oil and gas industry’s focus on continuous improvements is keeping the offshore workforce safer, according to Oil & Gas UK’s annual 2013 health and safety report, which detailed the performance of the organization’s member companies during 2012.

Robert Paterson, Oil & Gas UK health, safety, and employment issues director, said the latest statistics demonstrate “the industry’s unwavering commitment to continuous improvement in the safety of offshore workers is bearing fruit.” He said, “Our industry has long performed well in terms of nonfatal accidents, better than sectors that would generally be considered lower hazard, including retail and the public sector.”

Yet, Paterson emphasized that “there is no room for complacency,” adding, “We must never stop at striving to make things safer.”

Last year, the UK oil and gas industry experienced the Elgin G4 well-control incident involving a gas leak, and two separate helicopter ditching incidents. Total E&P Ltd. operated the Elgin G4 well, which resulted in a field shutdown 240 km from Aberdeen in the UK North Sea.

Total restarted production of natural gas and condensate on the Elgin-Franklin complex in the UK North Sea following approval by the UK Health and Safety Executive. Production was stopped in March 2012 when a gas leak was detected on the G4 well in Elgin complex. The well had been shut-in already (OGJ Online, Mar. 25, 2012).

Total confirmed a G4 well top kill completely stopped the gas leak from Elgin (OGJ Online, May 21, 2012). Production from Elgin resumed on Mar. 9, 2013. Total’s investigation led to operating procedures being revised to reflect lessons learned from the G4 lessons, Oil and Gas UK’s report said.

The Elgin incident caused the industry to reflect again on how it manages its high-pressure, high-temperature well inventory. “Work is still ongoing to review and improve such operations,” the report said.

The helicopter incidents resulted in no serious injuries to people, but flights of certain types of helicopters were suspended pending an investigation. The report noted that work continued to restore the full UK helicopter fleet capability as the report went to publication last month.

In terms of safety performance, the report said offshore hydrocarbon releases totaled 97 during 2012 to March of 2013 compared with 187 during 2010. The offshore industry’s safety partnership, Step Change in Safety, and its member companies set an objective of achieving a 50% reduction in the number of reportable hydrocarbon releases by the end of March as measured against the total number of releases in 2010. Industry reached a 48% reduction. The report said the Step Change Leadership Team is intent on retaining its hydrocarbon release prevention focus and is considering a new release reduction target and reference period.

Paterson said he was proud that Oil & Gas UK persuaded the European Commission to drop its proposed regulation on offshore oil and gas safety and instead proceed with a directive.

“Again, the involvement of regulators and trade unions in this proved to be of huge importance and worth. The result leaves our world-class regulatory framework largely intact and enables the industry and regulators in the UK to continue on the path of continuous improvement without the major distraction of having to dismantle the existing safety system,” Paterson said.

Continuing work around asset integrity, field life extension, and aviation safety are more examples of industry’s efforts to avoid health and safety issues, he said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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