BP Hit With North Sea Rig Safety Issues

Thursday, February 10, 2011 @ 06:02 AM gHale

It almost seems like they can’t get out of their own way, but UK’s safety regulator for the offshore oil and gas industry ordered BP to fix significant safety lapses on three North Sea rigs.

The order comes shortly after BP’s Chief Executive Bob Dudley vowed to make BP a safe offshore energy operator. Dudley took over after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.K. Health and Safety Executive identified a case in September where the company was aware of dangerous corrosion on a piece of equipment on a North Sea platform but continued to operate it until it failed catastrophically. The HSE didn’t say whether anyone suffered an injury in the incident.

That event came after April’s Deepwater Horizon explosion, but before Dudley became chief executive on Oct. 1. Dudley started a major shake-up of BP’s approach to managing risk, creating an independent safety organization whose head reports directly to him.

Mark Bly, head of the new safety organization, said Tuesday improvements are already “rippling through the company. We are building the foundation to a much-different approach to safety and operational risks.”

The HSE issued BP the improvement notice Nov. 25. This isn’t the harshest sanction available to the regulator, which has the power to immediately shut down operations where it finds the most serious violations.

The first HSE charge is BP neglected maintenance of a heating line on the Schiehallion offshore platform.
“You were aware of severe wall thinning on the heating medium line from Sept. 21, 2010, but no operational risk assessment was carried out to determine whether this was safe for continued operation or should be shut down,” the notice said. “The line failed catastrophically on Sept. 24, 2010, discharging approximately 27 [metric tons] of fluid at 123 degrees centigrade.”

The regulator also said BP had failed to adequately address the risk to its workers from an oil leak in a turbine enclosure on the Clair platform and had considered running the ETAP platform without enough lifeboats.

“We have already taken a number of actions to improve this aspect of risk management and will ensure all lessons are shared and implemented,” BP said in a statement. “BP’s safety performance in the North Sea during 2010 improved considerably.”

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