According to the latest annual RNNP AU report, the number of acute crude oil discharges declined in 2001-18. So did near-misses for serious incidents which could have led to acute pollution.
“This positive trend in incidents and near-misses is not reflected in assessments of the level of seriousness,” says Anne Myhrvold, director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA).
“So a discussion still needs to be conducted on the effect of barriers in preventing large acute crude oil spills and in bringing incidents to a stop.”
The number of subsea solutions installed on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) is growing in connection with new developments in these waters.
Two hydrocarbon leaks were recorded in 2018 from seabed facilities such as pipelines, flowlines and templates. Three incidents of damage to subsea production installations outside the safety zone around a surface facility were also registered,
“This area must receive greater attention,” says Myhrvold. “Reducing uncertainty related to acute spills from subsea facilities is important.
“The companies must make it clear how they are working on continuous improvement related to this type of incident.”
Barents Sea activity in 2013-18 was high compared with earlier years. RNNP AU data are still insufficient to say anything about trends in this region over time or compared with other waters.
However, the available information provides no reason to suppose that the position in the area is different from the rest of the NCS.
“Grounds clearly exist for devoting attention to accident prevention and barriers intended to prevent acute pollution in the Barents Sea,” Myhrvold observes.
“There’s also a need to clarify which potential challenges could be area-specific and which might be more general in character.”
Acute chemical spills account for 80 per cent of the petroleum industry’s discharges on the NCS. About a quarter of them are larger than one cubic metre.
The number of incidents involving chemical discharges have shown a positive trend since 2014, but developments have been negative in terms of the annual volume spilt.
That reflects an increase over recent years in incidents which involve a large volume discharged.
Myhrvold believes it would be reasonable to ask whether enough attention is being paid in general to preventing acute chemical spills.
She also questions whether the companies have good enough control over the barriers intended to prevent such incidents or bring them under control.