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Metal plate caused Visund leak

February 2, 2006, 13:00 CET

A metal plate which came loose from the flare tank in the piping system for the flare was the direct cause of the gas leak which occurred on Statoil’s Visund platform in the North Sea on 19 January. Gas and liquids are separated in the flare tank.

This preliminary conclusion has been drawn by the in-house commission of inquiry, which is due to submit its final report in late February.

When the leak occurred just after midnight, the platform management opted to send the crew to the lifeboats. Nobody was injured as a result of the incident.

Statoil and seven other operators on the Norwegian continental shelf are currently checking whether their installations have the same technical solution as Visund.

They are due to notify the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway about the results of this review by 3 February.

A third of the installations operated by Statoil have so far been checked, without finding the same technical solution as on Visund.

“Only when the in-house inquiry has been completed will we know which improvements are needed on the platform,” says Lars Christian Bacher, senior vice president for Tampen.

“We’re now checking whether the flare tank and other systems on Visund have suffered any damage.”

The metal plate which caused the damage was positioned at the flare tank's outlet. It changed the gas flow in the tank in order to collect liquids before the gas was piped to the flare.

Preliminary findings indicate that this component was deformed by aerodynamic forces as the gas flowed through. The plate came loose and was carried into the flare piping.

This system was ruptured when the plate hit a 90-degree bend, creating a hole about 50 centimetres in diameter.

Visund is unlikely to resume production during the first quarter. The daily loss of output totals roughly 35,000 barrels of oil and about five million cubic metres of export gas. Statoil's share is 32.9 per cent.

The field has been on stream since 1999, and Statoil took over as operator from Hydro on 1 January 2003.