PSA Audits Shell Drilling Activities

During the period 23 March – 10 September 2010, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) carried out an audit of the technical and operational robustness of A/S Norske Shell’s (Shell’s) planning and implementation of drilling operations.

The audit activity was based on the planned exploration well 6603/5-1 (Dalsnuten) and was divided into two phases planned for completion in 2009:

• Audit of the land organisation that planned the well

• Verification of the facility Leiv Eiriksson

 Due to changes in Shell’s plans for the use of the drilling facility Leiv Eiriksson, the drilling of well 6603/5-1 was postponed until 2010. Based on this, we chose to delay Phase 2 to follow the further planning process for the well.

During the spring of 2010, Shell decided to use the Aker Barents facility for the drilling of well 6603/5-1 (Dalsnuten). We carried out a new meeting on land with Shell and Aker Drilling Operations AS (Aker Drilling) to include changes in Shell’s planning. The PSA also participated as an observer during the risk assessment “Drill Well On Paper”, which Shell carried out with the drilling contractor and the engineers involved in the implementation of well 6603/5-1 (Dalsnuten). In connection with the process surrounding application for consent to conduct the drilling, a meeting was held between the PSA and Shell where Shell explained the compensating preparedness measures that the company has implemented in connection with drilling at this location. The verification was carried out on board Aker Barents in the period 7-10 September 2010, during the start-up phase of the well.


 The audit activity was based on one of the PSA’s main priorities for 2009, which encompasses technical and operational safety, and the continuation in 2010 was based on the main priority of technical and operational barriers. The background for the priorities is that barrier breach, single or multiple, has been identified as a recurring causal factor of several incidents. The sum of technical, operational and organisational factors is vital for whether the barriers function and are effective at all times. Good planning can safeguard these factors so they are robust and contribute to a secure and safe operation. Well 6603/5-1 (Dalsnuten) was chosen on the basis of challenges associated with a great distance from land, deep water and uncertainties tied to pressure prognoses in the prospect.


Through the activity, we wanted to conduct an audit of how Shell safeguards robust solutions in connection with planning and implementation of the drilling operation on well 6603/5-1 (Dalsnuten).

The following topics were central:

• Risk assessments associated with the planned operation – including factors such as technical integrity, barriers, lifting operations and preparedness

• Management of competence and risk understanding on the part of those involved in planning and implementation of the activity.

• Management of necessary resources (equipment and personnel)

• The interface and communication between technical disciplines in Shell and between Shell and involved suppliers of drilling and well services

• Change control as regards how minor and major nonconformities from the plan are handled

• Management involvement


The audit activity was carried out in accordance with the plans that were made, and was well-organised by Shell.

In the period between Phase 1 (audit on land) and Phase 2 (verification on the facility) of the audit activity, Shell implemented a new management system, and a new governing document for planning and implementation of drilling operations. Based on observations tied to Shell’s management system and governing documents in Phase 1, the new system seems clearer and more user-friendly.

Our general impression is that Shell has established the necessary systems for planning and implementation of the drilling operation. Furthermore, the impression is that the company emphasises continuous improvement along the way, and has implemented measures to handle identified challenges associated with the well.

During the audit activity, we identified five improvement items linked to:

• Inadequate safeguarding of the supervisory duty related to lifting operations

• Weaknesses in the information and communication systems

• Inadequate documentation and follow-up of nonconformities

• Inadequate follow-up and verification of job categories

• Inadequate follow-up of systematic use of risk reviews and the risk register during operations.


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