StatoilHydro: Staff Cut on N Sea Rigs on Storm Threat

StatoilHydro ASA (STO) said Thursday that forecasts for the worst North Sea storms so far this winter have led it to cut personnel on a number of North Sea platforms, part of established procedures for an interim period to address a shortage of adequate lifeboat capacity.

"There are no production consequences so far," said StatoilHydro spokesman Gisle Johansen. The platforms affected are Veslefrikk, Huldra, Snorre A, Troll B, and beleaguered Kvitebjoern and Visund.

"It is expected that staff can return to the installations by Saturday," when the worst of expected storm should have passed over the affected North Sea area, Johansen said.

Waves of up to 11 meters are expected during the storm, and the findings of a comprehensive survey of lifeboat safety ascertained in 2007 that certain wave heights would cause G-force related injury to passengers when lifeboats were deployed into the sea.

Roiling waves created by bad weather conditions create extreme wave peaks and troughs, increasing the height vessels must fall from platforms to the sea, and raising the likelihood of harm to passengers sitting in certain seats in the boats.

Earlier in the winter storms forced the temporary shut-in of a number of Norwegian oil and gas platforms, impacting a proportion of the output at BP's (BP) 80,000 barrel a day Valhall field and ConocoPhillips (COP) 140,000-barrel-a-day Ekofisk system.

BP spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo said the company won't be demanning its platforms because waves aren't expected to be high enough.

"It's more the northern part of the North Sea that will be affected," he noted. The company is affected by subsidence at its Valhall platform which has reduced the so called "air gap" between the platform topside and the sea, rather than lifeboat woes.

ConocoPhillips, parts of whose Ekofisk platforms are also prey to subsidence, said its production will not be affected by the imminent storm.

StatoilHydro had to briefly shut in around 110,000 barrels a day of oil production at its Visund and Oseberg South fields at that time.

Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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