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Snorre A blowout causes analysed

November 1, 2005, 15:25 CET

An extensive causal analysis of the gas blowout on Statoil’s Snorre A platform on 28 November 2004 has been submitted to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) today, 1 November.

This study has been conducted to identify how the incident could occur on the North Sea installation and to assess further measures for improving safety in Statoil.

“The analysis has identified weaknesses in organisation, management, systems and work processes,” notes Terje Overvik, executive vice president for Statoil's Exploration & Production Norway business area.

“The important thing now is to learn from what happened. This analysis makes an important contribution to ensuring that the right steps are taken.

“We’ve already adopted a number of improvement measures both in the Snorre organisation and in other parts of Statoil where required. We’ll now see whether the analysis calls for further action.”

Both Statoil and the PSA have already produced inquiry reports on the Snorre A incident, and these formed the basis for carrying out the more in-depth causal analysis.

Statoil will continue developing a total package of measures and a timetable for implementation and measuring the effects of the recommended measures for the Snorre organisation. This plan is due to be ready by 1 December.

The principal conclusions in the causal analysis relate to the following areas:

  • the Snorre organisation was gradually and cautiously phased into the Statoil system after the group took over as operator for the field from Norsk Hydro on 1 January 2003, but this integration should have been faster and stronger
  • the Snorre organisation’s mode of working has not been systematic, planned and long-term
  • changes made to the organisation were not sufficiently understood and created lack of clarity about responsibilities – at the same time as the level of activity on the field was high
  • professional objections and critical questions have not been sufficiently welcomed, which in turn weakened safety barriers
  • expertise on and understanding of risky operations was not good enough in the Snorre organisation.

Mr Overvik acknowledges that the gas blowout was a very serious incident, which has been extremely demanding for Statoil.

“Although we’ve seen a positive trend in safety during recent years, the Snorre incident and the analysis findings show that we still have room for improvement.”

Since the event, Statoil has reviewed other parts of its organisation without identifying weaknesses similar to those found by the causal analysis.

“The study has improved our understanding of how this incident could occur,” Mr Overvik says. “That makes us more confident that the action which has been and will taken is right.”

These measures include:

  • wells on Snorre have been planned and drilled in line with Statoil’s best practice since the incident
  • the Snorre organisation has been strengthened both on land and offshore
  • Snorre personnel have received better training in Statoil’s governing documents
  • a special project has been established to improve and simplify in-house procedures in Statoil
  • the quality of planning and risk assessment on Snorre A has been improved
  • the Snorre management is more strongly involved in all operations.

The analysis has been carried out in cooperation with Studio Apertura, a research unit linked with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).