The Guardian (UK): Poor safety of North Sea rigs exposed: “The deteriorating conditions on a Shell platform in the Brent field have been discovered after a series of gas leaks and two fatalities on other installations operated by the company.”: “The Brent problems are particularly disturbing because, although Shell has been through a financial crisis after misreporting the scale of its reserves, it is still regarded as an industry leader in operational matters.” (ShellNews.net) 9 Dec 04
Dec 09, 2004
A frightening picture of broken safety equipment, ill-trained workers and badly-maintained systems in the North Sea is contained in a confidential Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report seen by the Guardian.
The deteriorating conditions on a Shell platform in the Brent field have been discovered after a series of gas leaks and two fatalities on other installations operated by the company.
Mounting accident figures on North Sea platforms have alarmed trade unions and led to questions about Britain's dependency on ageing oil and gas equipment where investment levels have fallen.
The Brent problems are particularly disturbing because, although Shell has been through a financial crisis after misreporting the scale of its reserves, it is still regarded as an industry leader in operational matters.
"General inspection of the [Brent Charlie] platform identified many examples of severely corroded plant and equipment, which demonstrated lack of maintenance over an extended period," says a letter signed by Terry Thompson, inspector of health and safety at the HSE in Aberdeen.
The HSE points out that some fire safety equipment on the platform was not functional and says that faults had been identified 14 months ago - but still not dealt with.
The safety authorities demand Shell "investigate the underlying cause of these failures" and "improve the verification and maintenance arrangements to ensure that safety critical elements that have failed to meet their performance standards are risk assessed and remedial actions implemented".
The HSE letter, dated October 14 2004, and sent to Bill Townsley, operations manager of the Brent field, suggests that problems on emergency lighting services had earlier been found on another Brent field platform.
There is also criticism of the Brent Charlie platform where "some areas of the platform evidenced poor housekeeping management." Action is demanded that "these hazards and risks are removed".
The HSE further finds health difficulties among the staff on the Brent field.
Shell confirmed it had been contacted by the HSE but said it was working hard to put things right with new training workshops for the staff and replacing of faulty equipment.
It said it planned to spend "hundreds of millions of pounds" upgrading its North Sea facilities but believed its overall record was good.
"You can never be complacent but our safety record is improving year on year," said a Shell spokesman.
Worries about North Sea safety were highlighted last week when 139 workers were airlifted from Marathon Oil's Brae Alpha platform and Sta toil evacuated 180 oil workers from the Snorre A platform.
A gas escaped forced Shell to evacuate staff from the Cormorant Alpha platform in September. A similar problem occurred the month before, while two Shell workers died last year on the Brent Bravo platform.
Jake Molloy, general secretary of the oil workers' union, the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, said: "We are generally concerned about ageing infrastructure."
The HSE reported last February that there had been a 36% increase in offshore injuries in 2003 over 2002.