“The world is experiencing turbulent times and an extremely demanding security-policy position,” says Havtil director general Anne Myhrvold. “The threat level is high and we’re fairly certain it will remain so. We can talk about a new normal.”

Norway is the central supplier of natural gas to Europe, and that makes particularly high demands on security work, she observes.

Integrated assessments

“We’ve followed up that the industry is working in an integrated manner on safety and security, and have contributed to an improved awareness of the position both in the industry and at other government agencies,” Myhrvold reports. “We’ll be continuing with that in 2024.

“Delivery reliability, critical infrastructure, cyber security and insider risk are key considerations and priorities which must be high on the agenda. At the same time, we’ll maintain and improve safety and the working environment.

“We’re in a position which demands a lot from us all. And making good assessments, both individually and collectively, is essential. We must be able to see the overall picture while ensuring good collaboration and laying the basis for employee participation with both safety and security.”

10 points about safety and the working environment

The list of important areas for 2024 is a lengthy one, covering supervision of the industry, acquiring and communicating knowledge, regulatory development, information, and advice to the ministry. These are highly specialist subjects and cross-disciplinary issues.

The points listed below are some of those observed by Havtil during 2023, and which it will follow up professionally and through audits in the coming year.

Note that this overview is not exhaustive, and that the points are not ranked in order of importance.

1. Manning and expertise

“Manning and expertise remain a challenge,” affirms Myhrvold. “Our audits show a mismatch between all the assignments to be undertaken and the resources available.”

The result is high workloads, she says, and notes that Havtil sees an increasing use of overtime.

“We have commented in a number of audits on deficiencies in the management of working hours. In addition to direct breaches of the overtime rules, we see weaknesses in both knowledge of the working time regulations and follow-up of hours worked.

“Challenges related to manning, expertise and working hours could increase health hazards and also lead to errors being committed, and we’ll continue to follow this up in our audits.”

2. Avoiding hydrocarbon leaks

“Leak prevention is crucial,” Myhrvold says. “This is a case of ensuring that you understand the risk and have barriers in place to avoid HC leaks or to reduce their consequences if they nevertheless occur.”

She observes that Havtil audits and investigations related to such incidents reveal deficiencies. “This is about risk awareness in the companies, risk analyses, barriers, and planning and executing work.

“Where leaks are concerned, we pay particular attention to the land plants. The statistics there are moving quite clearly in the wrong direction.”

3. Maintenance

“Maintenance is important for safety,” Myhrvold emphasises. But figures from the annual survey on trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP) and findings from Havtil’s audits reveal extensive deficiencies in the basis for managing maintenance work.

“This will continue to be a subject in our audits,” she says. “We’ve also conducted a fairly large number of learning projects in this area, and it’s important that the players pick up on these. Companies must ensure they have the necessary knowledge.”

4. New projects

Many applications with plans for development and operation (PDO) were submitted in 2022, the director general observes. A number of these remain in an early phase, while other projects are approaching completion.

“Our audits find  conditions which the companies themselves should have discovered earlier,” Myhrvold notes. “We know that fixing things in the final stage often incurs extra costs and delays timetables. This can also have consequences for safe start-up.

“So good management in the project phase is important. We’ve worked on this and will continue to follow it up. We’ve also produced a number of reports on good project management which provide valuable knowledge the companies should be applying.”

5. Pore pressure

“Pore pressure is a relatively aspect of drilling and well technology, but one worth highlighting,” says Myhrvold. “We’ve commissioned an in-depth study which reveals precisely how important it is to understand such pressure and handle it in a good way to avoid well control incidents.

“We’ve held a series of meetings with the companies, and check in part that new guidelines are being used. We’ll also hold an industry seminar on risk and uncertainty with pore pressure estimates.”

6. Lifting incidents

Far too many lifting incidents still occur in the petroleum industry, both offshore and on land, comments Myhrvold, and notes that a lot of these reflect operational conditions.

“Together with the companies and unions in the collaboration committee for lifting operations and equipment, we’ve paid extra attention to expertise,” she says. “Curricula have been developed for offshore crane operators, and these must be adopted.”

7. Operating parameters

Operating parameters are a big issue, Myhrvold says. “We’ve commissioned a report where industry players describe the challenges they see as a result of changes to parameters, including contracts and contractual terms.

“We’re following up, both with individual companies and in tripartite arenas, over how to work better on these issues. We see there’s increased understanding and that things are moving, but a lot remains to be done here.”

8. Artificial intelligence

“AI is also a very big issue,” she acknowledges. “But it’s important to put it on the agenda in an industry vulnerable to major accidents like oil and gas. AI must be used prudently.

“We will pay close attention to developments here, including the use of AI in well planning. A lot’s also happening on the regulatory side, including in the EU, and it’s important that we also keep tabs on this.

“The use of AI offers opportunities, but we must understand and take account of the risks involved.”

9. Don’t forget the working environment

Havtil’s main issue for 2024 is Don’t forget the working environment, Myhrvold reports. “This is a slogan with a brief explanatory text which we use as a strategic tool in relation to company managements in the industry in order to provoke discussion – and action.”

Photo of Anne Myhrvold, Havtil
“We’re in a position which demands a lot from us all. And making good assessments, both individually and collectively, is essential," says Havtil director general Anne Myhrvold.. Photo: Havtil/Anne Lise Norheim

Choosing the working environment as a main issue does not mean that this is in a particularly poor condition, she explains. “But we have some concerns related to the fact that so much is happening so fast – digitalisation, new technology, AI, changes to operating parameters and other ways of working.

“We see, of course, that accidents happen, that people are injured or get sick. It’s important to think in an integrated way about preventive safety work, and that the working environment is not then forgotten.”

Myhrvold explains that Havtil is highlighting the working environment now for two reasons.

“The first of these is the working environment itself. Section 1 of the Working Environment Act on its purpose calls for a working environment which provides a basis for healthy and meaningful work. So it’s not enough just to avoid people falling ill.

“This section goes on to require secure conditions of employment, a satisfactory climate for expression, establishing a basis for cooperation between employer and employees and contributing to inclusive working conditions.”

The second reason is equally important, she says, and concerns the connection between the working environment and major accidents. “They’re not on separate planets, but hang together closely.

“As I mentioned above, we’ve commissioned a study of well control incidents and see that many factors are involved. An important one is the way management tackles changes. Change management is crucial when we’re talking about the working environment. We also know that the psychosocial working environment is a clear condition for avoiding major accidents.

“It’s also crucial for the security-policy picture and for preventing insider risk to understand the working environment and to work well with this.”

10. All the other tasks

“I might have mentioned a lot more points,” Myhrvold comments. “We could have talked about temporary hires, helidecks, evacuation, plugging wells, corrosion under insulation, carcinogenic chemicals or hyperbaric medicine. The list is a long one.

“We work with many, many more issues which we have concerns about. The companies must accept the responsibility they are given, and work well on preventing accidents and illness. That involves tackling all these issues, individually and collectively.”