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Norway orders BP risk management review after Ula leak

BY KJETIL MALKENES HOVLAND

OSLO -- Norway ordered BP to review its safety procedures, saying a North Sea oil leak in September threatened the lives of workers and could have caused major damage.

Wrapping up a seven month investigation, the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) said BP committed serious breaches of regulation both before and after the leak.

The PSA said it has concluded "the incident had the potential to become a major accident, with the risk that a number of lives might have been lost and substantial material damage caused."

No one was hurt but the platform had to be shut down for more than two months. The emergency shutdown systems kicked in only after 125 bbl of oil and 1,600 kg of gas were released.

The Ula leak is also under police investigation and the company risks a fine.

In its report, the PSA cited serious breaches of fire safety on board the platform. It said the leak occurred in a valve and was caused by a fracture in bolts weakened by exposure to very hot water containing corrosive chlorides.

The PSA gave BP until September to review its risk management, including why it failed to identify the weaknesses that led to the Ula leak, and until the end of the year to correct previously identified shortcomings at Ula. Earlier in the investigation, authorities faulted the company for failing to comply with rules on fire and explosion protection and ordered immediate fixes.

In light of the problems, authorities also ordered BP to evaluate whether safety measures put in place after a 2011 fire at its Valhall PCP platform were relevant and adequate. No one was hurt but a crane caught fire and burned for more than an hour before the blaze was put out. BP was subsequently ordered to review its maintenance of aging installations.

The PSA said the Ula incident shows continued deficiencies in BP' s maintenance systems. "The investigation has identified a number of serious breaches of the regulations, related in part to BP' s management system for activities on the Norwegian continental shelf" the PSA said.

BP Norway promised corrective action. "We have already addressed this and will close the gaps" identified by the PSA, said spokesman Olav Fjellsa.

The Ula field consists of three conventional steel platforms for production, drilling and quarters respectively. The platform involved in the leak produced about 23,000 bopd before the leak.

Dow Jones Newswires

04/29/2013

 

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