Deepwater Horizon tragedy may have Norwegian implications

Source: Petroleum Safety Authority - Norway

The tragic events on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico have attracted great international attention, and have also promoted a flood of questions to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA). 

A fire and explosion occurred on April 20, 2010 on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which is operated on behalf of BP and owned by Transocean. 

This incident led immediately to disaster, with 11 of the 126 people on board killed and a number of others reported to be seriously injured. 

At the same time, it quickly became evident that the well was out of control. Huge volumes of oil are still flowing out into the sea and drifting towards land. 

The PSA has received a stream of enquiries relating to these events, particularly from the media. At present, these questions primarily focus on the possibility of anything similar happening on the Norwegian continental shelf. 

Others concern comparisons between Norwegian and US regulations and safety levels, information on barriers and experience with well control equipment such as blowout preventers (BOPs). 

Norwegian Response 

Some general but important considerations related to the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion are provided. 

The PSA currently has no information on the causes of the disaster in the GoM, and accordingly can provide no specific assessments or comparisons with Norwegian requirements or conditions. As it becomes clear what went wrong, the PSA will continuously take the action required if the incident proves to be relevant for Norwegian safety work and/or regulations. As and when required, the PSA will implement measures in Norway at the appropriate time. Information on this will naturally be provided. 

The PSA is following the incident as closely as possible in the media and other channels to which it has access. Work is under way internally on possible scenarios related to the incident, so that the quickest possible response can be taken to the results of investigations and the actual accident inquiry. 

Although the PSA’s responsibility is related to safety on the NCS, it is very concerned to learn from incidents in other parts of the world – include the GoM tragedy. Transfer of lessons and experience, both nationally and internationally, will help to boost safety in the Norwegian petroleum activity. 

Learning from accidents and incidents is also a responsibility for the companies operating in Norway. The PSA considers it a matter of course that the players in the Norwegian petroleum keep continuously updated about the GoM incident and ensure that the lessons are implemented in their own organisations. Operators in Norway have an independent duty to work responsibly, and to conduct constant risk assessments based on all available knowledge. 

The PSA maintains regular contact with its US counterpart, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), both on the basis of a bilateral collaboration agreement and through the International Regulators’ Forum (IRF). The DH tragedy is likely to attract great attention over time in the IRF and in the bilateral dialogue between the PSA and the MMS.

It would not be appropriate for the Norwegian authorities to comment on regulations for and safety levels in the petroleum activities of other countries. 

The PSA’s role in protecting the natural environment is directed primarily at the preventive side by helping to ensure that environmentally harmful incidents do not occur. 

In addition, the PSA has a role in connection with the operator’s emergency preparedness for stopping a leak.

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