UK - "Worrying" Rise in Oil and Gas Leaks on North Sea Platforms Prompts Investigation : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: Inquiry as N Sea gas leaks soar

Source: The Scotsman Publication date: 2000-05-06

THE Health and Safety Executive yesterday announced plans to investigate the worry-ing rise in oil and gas leaks on North Sea platforms.

The number of releases reported to the HSE's offshore safety division last year was at its highest level for four years.

Eight per cent of the gas leaks were classified as major - a release which has the potential to escalate to other parts of the installation or cause serious injuries or fatalities. Almost 60 per cent were classified as significant, meaning a release that has the potential to cause serious injury or fatality to workers within the immediate area.

In an attempt to address the problem, the HSE's offshore safety division is, for the first time, to investigate every reported hydrocarbon release in the North Sea oil and gas industry.

The crackdown was welcomed by Jake Molloy, the general secretary of the offshore workers' union OILC, who warned that the potential still existed for another Piper Alpha disaster.

He said the dangers faced by North Sea workers had been highlighted at Hull Crown Court earlier this year when BG Exploration & Production was fined a record GBP 300,000 following a gas leak on the Rough platform.

He said: "All the ingredients for a re-run of the Piper Alpha disaster were present in big measure: a major maintenance shutdown in progress alongside pressure to maximise production. In the rush to get the platform back on stream, critical plant isolations and work permit systems had degenerated into little more than a shambolic paper chase. Only a miracle prevented disaster."

A report published yesterday by the HSE showed that there were 234 hydrocarbon releases last year, 16 more than the previous year. It was the highest number of releases since 1995, when 324 were recorded.

Mark Wheeler, a spokesman for the HSE, said: "Each release has the potential to develop into a serious incident." Last year's incidents had brought the total number of releases since 1994 to 1,567. Only 33 per cent had been classified as minor.

Dr John Wils, operational and technical affairs director of the United Kingdom Offshore Operators' Association, denied there was any link between down-manning or multi-skilling in the North Sea and the releases reported to the HSE.

He said: "There are design systems on our platforms so that any gas release is normally detected and the systems shut down automatically to make the platform safe."


-- (, May 09, 2000

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