Third biggest oil spill

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
An oil slick about one nautical mile in circumference was observed late in the evening of 19 May 2003. This was the third-largest crude spill on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) at the time.
— Photo: Harald M. Walderhaug/Norske Shell A/S
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Some 500-800 cubic metres of oil had leaked to the sea around Draugen – just four months after the previous hydrocarbon escape on the field.

The leak was spotted when personnel on the Draugen platform smelt and saw oil on the surrounding sea surface. Production was halted soon afterwards. Efforts to clean up the slick only commenced 12 hours later, while the coast outside Kristiansund was placed under observation – without detecting oil nor harm to fish or seabirds.[REMOVE]Fotnote: NTB, 20 August 2003, “Draugen-lekkasjen tredje største utslipp på norsk sokkel”.
This discharge was exceeded only by the Ekofisk Bravo blowout in 1977, when 12 700 cubic metres of oil escaped, and the Statfjord leak in 1992 which spilt 900 cubic metres because a valve on the loading hose was left open.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), 20 August 2003 “Oljelekkasje på Draugen større enn antatt”. Downloaded from http://www.ptil.no/nyheter/oljelekkasje-pa-draugen-storre-enn-antatt-article500-702.html. A broken loading hose on Statfjord A caused 4 400 cubic metres to escape to the sea in 2007.

The Draugen leak was caused by crack formation in an end connection between Garn West and flowlines carrying oil to the platform. These cracks arose in turn because the connection design had failed to take sufficient account of the big tensile forces which the system would face.

Oil leaked out when the subsea installation on Garn West was being brought back on stream after a 19-day maintenance shutdown. That in turn reflected unclear routines for such startups.

This emerged from the NPD investigation.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Investigation of accidents and incidents was taken over by the PSA when it was separated from the NPD in 2004. Shell was ordered to review documentation related to emergency preparedness on Draugen to make sure that the necessary measures would be initiated.
Other aspects which the company had to ensure included a clear division of responsibility and adequate training of suppliers and service companies.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 22 October 2003, “Sprekk og uklare rutiner ga oljeutslipp på Draugen”.

Another criticism which emerged from the NPD report was that the clean-up started too late – 12 hours after the first observation, as noted above. The NPD, the SFT and the Norwegian Coastal Administration all maintained that oil recovery should have started earlier. The SFT decided that response times should not exceed five hours.

According the Shell, the excessive delay with the clean-up reflected the difficulty of determining the most efficient deployment of booms to contain the oil.
The slick was thinly spread over a large area, and sucking it up with the aid of skimmers was not regarded as an adequate solution. A helicopter also had to be taken out of service during the critical phase in the first few hours. But Shell nevertheless had to admit that the incident could have been tackled better. The company was reported to the police by the SFT for an illegal oil spill to the sea.

This covered not only the May discharge, but also a smaller pollution incident that January where the spill was put at 13-62 cubic metres of oil. That arose because a valve had not been locked in place on the Rogn South subsea installation.
In addition, Shell was accused of inadequate control routines and insufficient implementation of measures which could have limited the pollution.

The SFT took a negative view of the fact that both spills had only been discovered by accident.[REMOVE]Fotnote: SFT (now the Norwegian Environment Agency), 18 January 2003, “Anmelder Norske Shell ASA for oljeutslipp”. Downloaded from http://www.miljodirektoratet.no/no/Nyheter/Nyheter/Old-klif/2003/November/Anmelder_Norske_Shell_ASA_for_oljeutslipp/. Norske Shell was fined NOK 4 million for the two spills. It accepted the penalty from the public prosecutor and apologised for the incidents. This was its first fine for an oil leak.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 9 February 2006, “Shell fikk 4. mill. i bot for lekkasje”.

Published August 8, 2018   •   Updated October 18, 2018
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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