Offshore safety in Norway to 1990

person By Gunleiv Hadland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The early years of oil operations on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS), from 1965 to the late 1970s, have been described in retrospect as dominated by an American work culture.
— Roughnecks at Transocean. Photo: Unknown/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
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This was anti-union and imposed strict discipline on the rank-and-file. The workforce was also almost entirely male, and a “cowboy” culture developed where people were ready to take chances.

A number of accidents occurred. With the priority given to efficiency and productivity, safety measures were regarded to some extent as unnecessary costs. [REMOVE]Fotnote: Smith-Solbakken, Marie (1997). Oljearbeiderkulturen: historien om cowboyer og rebeller, Trondheim: 72.

Sikkerhet offshore fram til 1990, engelsk,
With the priority given to efficiency and productivity, safety measures were regarded to some extent as unnecessary costs. Photo: Harry Nor-Hansen/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Operations off Norway were dominated by young personnel, with a big foreign component. The climate was fairly rigorous, and the land was further away than in earlier offshore activities.

The number of serious accidents eventually built up, and efforts to improve safety became more systematic.

So how did thinking about safe working develop in the confrontation between the cowboy culture and Norwegian traditions and a stricter regime? And how did planning of Draugen build on earlier experience?

Working Environment Act

One step towards improving conditions offshore was to extend the Working Environment Act adopted by Norway in 1977 to the NCS. Applying this legislation to the oil sector was under discussion even before it came into force.

The large number of foreign companies and employees involved, often on short-term contracts, posed particular difficulties in establishing a uniform system and ensuring adequate control.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, annual report 1977: 6.
A push towards introducing the Act offshore was provided by a fire which affected the Ekofisk Alpha platform in the North Sea on 1 November 1975.

Immediately after this incident, the industry ministry required operator Phillips Petroleum to establish a safety delegate service for the field.

Furthermore, a safety and environmental committee was established. This became the forerunner of the working environment committee later required under the Act. [REMOVE]Fotnote: https://snl.no/Alfa-plattform-ulykken
Temporary regulations based on the legislation, with some exceptions, were applied to fixed installations on the NCS with effect from 1 July 1977.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) was appointed as the regulatory authority.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, annual report 1977: 50. The Act was not extended to floating facilities until 1992.

A “tripartite” collaboration between employers, employees and government formed the cornerstone of Norway’s working environment regime. The workers had a legal right to be consulted.

Such employee participation was not normal in the American labour relations practice followed by a number of the international oil companies.

The Act therefore aroused great opposition, and the meeting between US and Norwegian work cultures proved difficult at times. Some fears were expressed in the oil industry that it would boost costs and cause delays for development projects.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 4 April 1978, “Arbeidsmiljøloven fryktes i Nordsjøen. Uviss innvirkning på den videre Statfjord-utbyggingen”.

Sikkerhet offshore fram til 1990,
Engraved American-style helmet. Many Americans brought such personal helmets to Norway at the start of the oil industry. There was some kind of pride and an unofficial hierarchy in relation to how advanced the engraving on the helmet was. Some were engraved by hand, while others were done mechanically. Eventually, helmets of aluminum were banned due to spark hazard and the possibility of electrically conductive material. Photo: Shadé Barka Martins/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

A main goal of the legislation was that working environment problems should be resolved as far as possible at local level through joint action by employees and employers.

One of its key provisions was that technology should be tailored to people, and requirements were specified for designing a workplace.

That involved stipulations for such physical aspects as lighting, ventilation, noise pollution and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Employee codetermination would be ensured with mandatory safety delegates elected by them and the working environment committee drawn from both management and rank-and-file.

Company leaderships were obliged to collaborate with the delegates, who could halt a work operation on their own judgement if they considered it likely to cause an accident.

At the same time, each employee was to help create a good and healthy working environment and seek to prevent accidents and damaged to health. They had a legal duty to use prescribed PPE.

However, the main responsibility for safety was placed unambiguously on the employer.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, Helge (2007): “Sikker atferd i et historisk perspektiv”, in Tinmannsvik (ed): Robust arbeidspraksis. Hvorfor skjer det ikke flere ulykker på sokkelen?, Trondheim.

The government supervised compliance, and could impose orders on the operators if they failed to follow up working conditions.

Bravo blowout and offshore safety

Sikkerhet offshore fram til 1990, engelsk,
Blow-out on Ekofisk 2/4 B. The supply and rescue vessel "Seaway Falcon" hosing water up the gas and oil stream. Foto: ConocoPhillips/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

After the uncontrolled blowout on the Ekofisk 2/4 B (Bravo) platform in April 1977, it became clear that Norwegian offshore safety was not good enough and the risk level stood too high.

The government launched an extensive offshore safety research programme in 1978. Although this concentrated on the safety of people, it also identified risk factors related to the environment and material assets.

Attention was given to safety management, defined as conscious measures to increase the probability of avoiding harm and harmful incidents. Preventing fire and explosion occupied a key place.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Kårstad and Wulff (1983). Sikkerhet på sokkelen, Oslo: 94.

The internal control principle was developed by the NPD in the wake of the Bravo blowout and the extension of the Working Environment Act.

Targeted at the oil companies, this concept replaced direct inspection by the regulators with a duty on operators to conduct safety checks and follow up work on safety.

The commission of inquiry into the Bravo incident concluded that it was caused by human error, which had its roots in turn in weak administrative systems, instructions and routines.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Moe, Johannes (1999). På tidens skanser, Trondheim: 184.

A number of studies into blowout risk and impact assessments of such incidents were carried out.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norwegian Official Reports (NOU)1979:8. Risko for utblåsning på norsk kontinentalsokkel.The oil they released could potentially harm the natural environment, including fisheries.

(map)

The NCS at the end of 1977. The 62nd parallel, which passes approximately through Stad in northern Sogn og Fjordane county, marked the northernmost limit for oil drilling. Map prepared by the NPD.

Kielland disaster and internal control

The capsizing of the Alexander L Kielland accommodation rig (flotel) in 1980 has been very significant for safety thinking in the Norwegian petroleum sector.

With 123 lives lost, it ranks as Norway’s worst-ever industrial disaster. The subsequent inquiry highlighted inadequate safety training and exercises, and lack of life-saving equipment.

One of the big changes in the wake of the accident was that internal control became systematised. This recognised that rapid technological advances made it difficult for the government to keep its regulations relevant and up-to-date.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norwegian Official Reports (NOU) 1987:10.  Internkontroll i en samlet strategi for arbeidsmiljø og sikkerhet: 39.

The outcome was the publication in 1981 of official guidelines for internal control by licensees in the petroleum sector.[REMOVE]Fotnote: http://www.ptil.no/hms-styring-og-ledelse/tilsynsordningen-fra-detaljstyring-til-malstyring-article6681-824.html. A duty to operate prudently in accordance with the regulatory requirements was imposed on the responsible companies.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, Helge (2007): “Sikker atferd i et historisk perspektiv”, in Tinmannsvik (ed): Robust arbeidspraksis. Hvorfor skjer det ikke flere ulykker på sokkelen?, Trondheim.

(pic)

The Piper Alpha platform in flames on 6 July 1988. Fire on an offshore installation is a worst-case scenario in safety work. Photo: BBC

Piper Alpha and planning on Draugen

Another major accident, this time on the UK continental shelf, had direct consequences for safety thinking related to Draugen.

The Piper Alpha platform caught fire and exploded in 1988, causing the deaths of 167 people – two-thirds of those who had been on board.

Its direct cause was the removal of a pump for overhaul. A misunderstanding meant an attempt was nevertheless made to start it. That led in turn to a gas leak with subsequent ignition, fire and explosion.[REMOVE]Fotnote: https://www.norskoljeoggass.no/no/Hydrokarbonlekkasjer/Hvorfor-er-det-viktig-a-unnga-HC-lekkasjer/Piper-Alpha/.
A notification had been given to the control room on a work permit that the pump must not be started, but this had failed to reach the right people.

Piper Alpha was originally designed in 1976 for oil production, and its firewalls were constructed to protect against the heat from an oil blaze.

However, they could not withstand the pressure created by a gas explosion. A gas module was installed in 1980, with gas compression immediately beneath the control room.

The disaster focused extra attention on the need to tighten up requirements for safety procedures related not only to oil and gas operations but also to platform design.[REMOVE]Fotnote: http://www.ptil.no/artikler-i-sikkerhet-status-og-signaler-2012-2013/piper-alpha-marerittet-article9136-1094.html.
A more complex causal picture was revealed by the official commission of inquiry, with a number of faults and deficiencies in equipment and reporting routines as well as poor communication.

Lack of control and coordination was a key finding, with poor follow-up and checking of work permits in the years ahead of the accident.

The report contained a large number of recommendations, including a requirement for all operators to prepare a safety case.[REMOVE]Fotnote: http://www.oceanstaroec.com/fame/2005/hse.htm

This is a structured document which establishes the safety challenges faced and identifies the responsibilities of the operator company’s management.

Shell UK paid close attention to the Piper Alpha inquiry, and the Draugen development organisation secured access to updated information which could be used in the project.

An extensive safety case was developed for the field, which built in part on the Piper Alpha recommendations as well as practice in Shell’s international organisation.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Mahdi Hasan, 11 August 2017.

A number of companies developed a health, safety and environmental (HSE) case, which listed challenges in these areas and clarified the measures taken and the procedures in force.

These cases analysed which parts of the process could lead to pollution as well as the probability of an accident occurring,[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Environmental Risk Assessment of a Leakage based Injection Water Discharge from Draugen on the Norwegian Continental Shelf”, SPE/EPA/DOE Exploration and Production Environmental Conference, 2001.

while listing job categories and the associated responsibility.

An HSE case was also drawn up for Draugen using a structure developed by Shell International. This formed part of a strategy for global standardisation, where the same governing documents, guidelines and controls would apply everywyhere.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hoem, Anders (2014), How does the Shell global HSSE control framework align with the Norwegian HSE regulations in light of general principles of risk, risk management, asset integrity and process safety? Master’s thesis in risk management, University of Stavanger. 
The Shell safety case has been used in a number of countries.

In addition to identifying the risk of major and minor accidents, the Draugen HSE case covers working environment factors such as ergonomics, the psychosocial environment and exposure to chemicals and noise.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Glas and Kjær (1996), “Draugen HSE Case – Occupational Health Risk Management”. International Conference on Health, Safety and the Environment. It is updated every five years.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Draugen HSE Case, dated 30 April 2012: 15.

Read more in the article on Draugen and safety.

Published October 2, 2018   •   Updated October 10, 2018
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Removing the rig

person Finn Harald Sandberg, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
It was decided in January 1997 to dispense with the maintenance-intensive drilling package on the Draugen platform because the well programme had been completed.
— The drilling module on Draugen is constructed and built by Hitec Dreco. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Transocean Drilling, which had taken over the Aker Drilling company, was commissioned to disassemble and remove the rig. Work began on 10 April and finished a month later.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Shell UP, no 5, June 1997.

Apart from the mud pumps, the whole package was modularised – put together from separate, relatively small units – to simplify removal and reuse.

This solution proved advantageous and meant that the whole job could be done with a limited number of people, using the platform’s own cranes to handle the modules.

No heavy-lift vessel therefore had to be chartered, which made the removal decision much easier to take from a purely financial perspective.

Nor was additional transport needed, since a recent shipping pool agreement (also covering large supply vessels) for the Halten Bank fields allowed components to be sent free as return cargo.

All the work was done without any accidents or other undesirable incidents, and production continued

boreriggen på draugen fjernes,
Draugen topside under construction at Kværner Rosenberg in Stavanger. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

unabated throughout the disassembly process.

After removal, the drilling rig was held in intermediate storage at Vestbase in Kristiansund before being shipped on to Forus outside Stavanger.

The package has been sold during the spring to the Stavanger-based Hitec company, which had delivered it originally in partnership with Canada’s Dreco.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 16 October 1997, “Hitec kjøper borerigg”.

Hitec had intended to use the rig for a particular project which failed to materialise. Soon after 2000, however, an inquiry was received by RC Consultants in Sandnes south of Stavanger.

Passed on by Hitec from the Norwegian agent of Russian state oil company Rosneft, this involved an invitation to tender for conversion of the Ispolin heavy-lift vessel to a drill ship.

Rosneft therefore needed a rig for the project, which was aimed at drilling the first well in the Russian sector of the Caspian, and the Sandnes company won the job.

This was accordingly a story of exporting Norwegian petroleum expertise, reusing offshore equipment from Norway and Russia’s commitment to increasing its oil production at the time.

RC Consultants’ contract was originally worth NOK 120 million, including the drilling module and engineering services related to its testing, transporting, installing and commissioning.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 4 February 2003, “Russisk borerigg gir kontrakt til Sandnes”.

“This rig only drilled five wells on Draugen from 1993, so I regard it as almost brand new,” Egil Tjelta, CEO of RC Consultants, told local daily Stavanger Aftenblad.

Trial assembly and testing of the package took place at Offshore Marine in Sandnes during the spring of 2003 under the supervision of five Russian engineers.

It was then broken down into two parts and transported to the port of Astrakhan on the Caspian in April. All this work was carried out with no problems of any kind.

Different routes were taken by the rig sections, with one travelling by barge through the Straits of Gibraltar and via the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and canals.

The other was carried by a specially adapted river boat via St Petersburg, the Russian canal system and the Volga, which empties into the Caspian.

Installation on the ship occurred in Astrakhan, which is where the problems started. Nobody had told the Norwegian engineers that drilling would take place in very shallow water.

The ship was actually due to sit in the seabed, because the Caspian in this area is only about five to 10 metres deep. Drawing on experience from Norwegian conditions and international safety standards, all warning lights flashed.

Installing the derrick and equipment presented no difficulties, but the fact that operational safety was not approved meant that a drilling permit could not be obtained.

The drill ship was admittedly renamed by President Vladimir Putin, but that carried no weight with the regulators. The project was shelved, but Ispolin was later used for other drilling jobs in the Caspian.

Published July 2, 2018   •   Updated October 9, 2018
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