The Norwegian regulators, the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA), have found that the oil and gas leak at BP’s Ula field in the North Sea was the result of a series of serious breaches in the operation and maintenance of the platform.
In September 2012 around 125 barrels of oil and 1,600 kilograms of natural gas leaked into the environment due to corroded bolts in one of the valves. The regulators stated that whilst the incident was fairly small, and no one was hurt, production still had to stop for 67 days, and the situation had the potential to be a lot worse.
The PSA stated that “the incident had the potential to become a major accident. A number of lives might have been lost and substantial material damage caused.”
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A fire at the Valhall platform in 2011 led the PSA to order BP to undertake a full review of all maintenance for ageing installations, and this latest incident will force BP to return to that review in order to determine whether further improvements are required.
The valve had been identified as faulty six months prior to the leak, and had been marked for replacement during a scheduled maintenance shutdown later this year.
BP spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo confirmed that the PSA’s review of the facility “closely matches our own inquiry when it comes to the fundamental cause of the incident. We take note of the orders and discrepancies that the authority points out, and the work to comply has already begun.”
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Despite the poor condition on parts of the rig, and the fact that BP had previously identified the flawed valve and not immediately acted to remediate the situation, PSA spokesman Oeyvind Midttun stated that“although we have found some serious discrepancies and BP has a lot to work with going forward, we remain confident that the company is able to manage its business in a good manner and in line with Norwegian regulations.”