WisePlant – A WiseGroup Company
Oil company fined £400,000 for North Sea platform gas leak 1

Oil company fined £400,000 for North Sea platform gas leak

Offshore Apache oil company was fined £400,000 after it failed to provide written safety procedures for the depressurisation of an oil well, prompting the release of more than 1000kg of hydrocarbon gas at its Beryl Alpha production facility in the North Sea.

Aberdeen Sheriff’s Court heard how, on June 2, 2014, Apache had assigned a production technician to perform a depressurization task at one of its oil wells, which it had performed on previous occasions.However, they did not provide him with any written security procedures, expecting him to carry out this complex memory task.

The Beryl Alpha platform has 40 well slots and some of its oil wells are lifted with gas to increase production efficiency.The use of lift gas means that there are large inventories of pressurized hydrocarbon gas, any uncontrolled release of these inventories is a potential major risk event.

By approximately 7:40 p.m. local time, four flammable gas detectors had detected gas in the area and automatically activated the platform’s water deluge system. The general alarm of the platform sounded and the 134 workers went to their meeting posts. The gas discharge continued and the facility remained at the meeting post for more than six hours.

An investigation by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that deficiencies in Apache’s safety management system (SMS) lead to a release of more than 1000kg of hydrocarbon gas.They had not carried out a risk assessment to depressurize the gas extraction wells, which meant that proper written procedures were lacking.Using a written procedure formalized by Apache would have ensured that this task was carried out correctly safely and consistently across all personnel shifts, preventing the safety-critical emergency stop system from being disabled during well depressurization. The prolonged duration and magnitude of the release were a direct consequence of the inadvertent defeat of the emergency shutdown system in this case.

Prosecutors said more than 100 staff members were exposed to the risk of serious injury or death if the gas release had ignited.Given its reported turnover in 2019 of £400 million, Sheriff Philip Mann said a £600,000 fine was appropriate. This was reduced to £400,000 as a result of Apache’s guilty plea. Sheriff Mann told the court, “This was a serious violation of health and safety responsibilities that had the risk of serious injury, but fortunately that risk was low. However, there was a system that, if it had been followed, would have prevented the situation from occurring. The company has a good health and safety record, has no prior convictions and has fully cooperated with measures to remedy the situation.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Chief Inspector Dave Walker said: “Although the offshore industry has managed to reduce its total number of hydrocarbon emissions, it remains true that in most years there are several, which are such a size that if ignited result in potentially catastrophic consequences.

“At over 1000 kg, Apache’s Beryl Alpha hydrocarbon release was the largest reported to HSE in 2014. It occurred during complex work on a well, which used a large volume of high-pressure gas to improve production rates, the hazardous nature of which had been highlighted in a specific HSE guide.

“The depressurization of an oil well is a safety-critical task, so it should have been formalized in a written procedure to establish a specific sequence of operations to perform the task correctly and prevent potential fatal consequences.”

Source: Link

About the author: Eduardo Kando Verified Member WiseGroup Manager

Get Involved & Participate!

The moment is now!
The experience meets opportunity!


No comments yet