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    Offshore hydrocarbon releases down says HSE

    News // March 28, 2003
    During 2001/2002, 241 offshore hydrocarbon releases were reported to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 29 (11%) less than the previous year. The numbers of both major and significant releases have decreased substantially over the past three years.

    The figures were published by HSE's Offshore Division (OSD) recently in its offshore hydrocarbon releases statistics report for 2002, giving details of hydrocarbon releases from offshore oil and gas installations on the UK Continental Shelf. The report covers all hydrocarbon releases notified to HSE from 1 October 1992 to 31 March 2002, and replaces the 2001 statistics report (HSR 2001 002, issued January 2002).

    Taf Powell, head of HSE's Offshore Division, said "This is a key report for the offshore industry. HSE is working closely with industry to examine the problem areas highlighted in the analysis, and to try to reduce further the number of releases. The statistics are also being used to measure performance against the stated aim of reducing major and significant releases to 50% of the 1999/2000 baseline figure by 2004."

    "The 19% reduction in the past two years compared to the baseline is encouraging (down from 139 to 113), and early indications from current figures are that this rate of reduction is improving, although we'll have to wait and see if this is confirmed inthe next statistics report.

    "We must also wait and see whether the surge of minor releases two 2 years ago was, as we suspect, because of improved reporting and that we will now see a decline in the numbers of minor releases in line with the major and significant releases that we are targeting in the joint HSE / industry leaks reduction campaign."

    Taf Powell continued "That campaign is in its mature phase and we expect all operators to take full advantage of the work done by many hands to identify root causes and remedies and to accelerate the decline in hydrocarbon releases. HSE inspectors are now targeting the poorest performing installations to see what is being done. It remains the case that if the poorest performing sites come up to the standard of the best there will be a dramatic decrease in hydrocarbon leaks in the UK sector and hence a significantly reduced risk of a major offshore accident hazard involving fire and explosion.

    "For the first time it is possible to see how operators of manned production installations are getting on because we have included an anonymised list ranking leak rates by operation and showing how the ranking has changed since 2000/01."

    The release rates are statistically sensitive and cannot be relied on to be an absolute indicator of relative performance. Looking at the general picture there is heartening competition to be best (with no releases) but clearly more to be done. It's important to note that even amongst the seven companies who continue to average more than one significant or major release per installation each year there have been improvements in performance."

    Tom Botts, Chairman of the industry Step Change in Safety initiative said "The progress we have made in the UK Continental Shelf in reducing hydrocarbon releases over the last two years is a direct result of the industry working together and with the HSEto tackle a difficult problem. The industry task force that was formed to help achieve the challenging 50% reduction target by 2004 has done a great job. We are well on the way to meeting the target. This is another key step toward our vision in the UKof becoming the safest place to work in the world wide oil and gas industry".

    Amicus National Secretary Danny Carrigan said "These initial figures are a positive step in the right direction and will hopefully act as an incentive for the installations to increase their efforts ensuring that the industry meets the targets it has set". It is vital that we consolidate the improving health and safety situation and these results will assist in meeting our aim - that the UK has safest offshore sector in the world by 2010."

    The report also contains an analysis of those hydrocarbon release incidents, which were investigated during 2001/2002, and compares the findings with those in the 2000/2001 investigation project report (OTO 2001 055 "Report on the hydrocarbon release incident investigation project - 1/4/2000 to 31/3/2001") produced as part of the HSE Process Integrity Initiative.

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