Company responses to the coronavirus pandemic may have contributed to deteriorating safety at Norway’s oil and gas infrastructure, which has seen 50 serious incidents so far this year—double that from the same time last year and four times higher than in 2018, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) said on Wednesday.
The regulator is concerned about the alarmingly high number of incidents and has asked companies to prioritize safety.
“This trend is a source of concern,” PSA director general Anne Myhrvold said in a statement.
Since the start of the pandemic, offshore operators—not only in Norway but everywhere—have delayed or shifted maintenance work in order to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, regulations, staff rotation, and quarantine measures.
The Norwegian authority is concerned that maintenance delays and changes to turnaround schedules due to the pandemic could delay the necessary servicing of oil and gas infrastructure.
“The companies must now be on their guard, and avoid a lack of maintenance over time developing into a safety risk,” Myhrvold said.
The Norwegian regulator has also launched a record number of investigations this year, 11, out of the 50 incidents recorded so far.
“Preliminary findings from some of these inquiries also show that company responses to the coronavirus epidemic may have had consequences for safety,” PSA said.
“The majority of our investigations are still under way, and it’s too early to draw final conclusions,” Myhrvold says. “But if these indications stand up, and the pandemic has actually had a negative impact on safety, that would be unacceptable,” she added.
Today, PSA decided to launch its 11th investigation this year, a well incident on the Gjøa field, where a drill string became stuck fast and blocked the blowout preventer (BOP). The regulator is investigating six incidents at Equinor-operated assets, including a fire at Hammerfest LNG last month, and one each at facilities operated by Wintershall, Gassco, ExxonMobil, Valaris, and Neptune Energy.