Statoil Platform Leak Had Potential to Be Major Accident-Safety Body

A gas leak that occurred this spring on a platform operated by Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil ASA (STO) had the "clear potential" to have been a serious incident, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority said Thursday.

"The incident had a substantial potential for harm in the event of ignition or in marginally changed circumstances. The PSA concludes that it had a clear potential to become a major accident," the safety body said in a statement.

The leak--which occurred on May 26 on the Heimdal field in the North Sea and caused the emission of 3,500 kilograms of gas--followed recent incidents at other Statoil-operated platforms, the most serious being one in occurred in spring 2010.

In its probe presented Thursday, the PSA said that improvement measures identified and implemented by Statoil after earlier incidents didn't have the expected effect.

"That's the central question--why did these measures not have the desired effect," PSA spokesman Oyvind Midttun said.

The PSA now needs Statoil to present a plan on how it will ensure its improvement measures are effective. It also needs Statoil to identify whether this was an isolated event and to confirm that similar conditions don't exist on other Statoil installations. The deadline for compliance with the PSA order is set at March 1, 2013 and the PSA needs a reply from Statoil on the issue before Jan. 11, 2013.

The safety body said the leak ranks among the most serious gas emissions on the Norwegian continental shelf for several years.

The Heimdal field is operated by Statoil with a 29.4% stake, while Centrica PLC (CNA.LN) has a 33.8% stake, the Norwegian state-owned oil company Petoro AS has a 20% stake and Total SA (TOT) has a 16.8% stake.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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