A high oil price is the most important reason why the petroleum industry is now enjoying very good times, but the extra pressure it exerts must not add to risk for health, safety and the environment.
This view was expressed by Magne Ognedal, director-general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), at a time of high demand for expertise and competition over labour in the oil and gas sector.
New companies are becoming involved on the Norwegian continental shelf, the lifetime of its fields is being extended and marginal discoveries have become profitable. Existing installations also need to be maintained, modified or replaced as they become older.
The oil companies are striving for high regularity, and all want to avoid unnecessary shutdowns. They also want to keep maintenance and planned shutdowns as brief as possible.
"I hope not," says Ognedal when asked if a high oil price represents an HSE risk. "If it does, we might ask whether the stock exchange is also an HSE risk, since being listed makes its own demands.
"The sum of influences acting on a company must never be used as an excuse to compromise on safety. Life and health, the natural environment and financial assets must come first."
Diversity and rapid changes in the industry also make new demands on the PSA. While most offshore personnel used to be employed by the operating companies, 70% now work for contractors. Players subject to the PSA’s audits have changed and increased in number.
"That means we must consider the functionality of the regulations," says Ognedal. "Clarifications may be needed, and we may have to specify minimum standards more clearly rather than simply providing guidelines."
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