Industry and Government rebuff oil and gas safety fears

The North Sea industry has reacted defensively to comments made by Adam Ma’anit in the Guardian newspaper suggesting that a more serious disaster is only a matter of time following […]

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By Tom Gibson

The North Sea industry has reacted defensively to comments made by Adam Ma’anit in the Guardian newspaper suggesting that a more serious disaster is only a matter of time following Shell’s recent spill.

Adam Ma’anit wrote in The Guardian on Wednesday that the UK Oil and Gas Industry was a “ticking timebomb” and that ageing infrastructure and poor regulation could result in something much worse than last week’s spill: “With the government’s ‘red tape challenge’ and swingeing cuts under way, there is a high probability that we will see more major oil spills and worker injuries in the coming years due to lack of regulatory capacity.”

Robert Paterson, Health and Safety Director, Oil & Gas UK defended UK safety standards: “The offshore industry invests significant funds, time and energy to ensure that its offshore installations continue to remain in good repair and safe condition so that safety systems operate effectively and on demand as intended. All safety-critical systems on every platform operating in the North Sea are subject to regular and rigorous inspections as well as examinations and testing by competent people employed by organisations independent of the installation operator.

The Guardian article questioned whether the Gannet A rig and its satellite projects are safe enough to remain in operation because they are approaching or have exceeded their original design life of 20 to 25 years, “posing an extra danger the longer they operate.”

The HSE have started to review the state of the ageing infrastructure but their ‘Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone’ document suggests they feel their work is more than adequate: “The Government believes the regulation of these industries to be soundly based and in accordance with best international practice and does not plan to reduce the current level of oversight. However, there will be a continuing programme of modernisation of regulatory approaches and co-operation between regulators to provide a consistent and proportionate approach for business.”