Number of Incidents Rise on Offshore Australia O&G Facilities

The number of Accidents or Dangerous Occurrences taking place on oil and gas facilities offshore Australia from January to June 2010 increased 13 percent from the previous six-month period of July through December 2009, according to Australia's National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA).


The total number of Accidents to June 30, 2010 was 15 and Dangerous Occurrences was 178, NOPSA reported in its Offshore Health and Safety Performance Report for June 2010. NOPSA found that the most common root causes for these incidents over the past five years were procedures not followed, preventive maintenance and design specifications.

Hard Hat

The report found that survey results indicate considerable variation between facilities. "In some topic areas a number of facilities fall below the benchmark, and key areas identified for improvement were training and performance feedback."

"NOPSA will continue to challenge operators of facilities to improve their safety performance and to seek evidence that industry is acting on addressing these root causes of incidents during our inspections," said Jane Cutler, chief executive officer of NOPSA.

Jane Cutler, chief executive officer of NOPSA

The Dangerous Occurrence rate has increased markedly in 2010 for unplanned events, gas releases and damage to safety-critical equipment. Uncontrolled hydrocarbon gas and petroleum liquid releases are of particular concern due to their potential ignition. The uncontrolled hydrocarbon release rate has increased markedly in the first half of this year with double the average number of gas releases reported. The majority of the gas releases were from floating production, storage and offloading vessels versus fixed platform facilities.


Most of these gas releases were pinhole, low flow, extended duration type releases that posed low risk localized hazards. Twenty hydrocarbon gas releases occurred, including three involving substantial quantities of gas or more than 300 kg. However, these releases occurred in areas not normally attended and did not pose any significant risk to the safety of people. Preventive maintenance, quality control, and competency/training were the three top root causes cited for the hydrocarbon gas releases.

"While NOPSA is closely monitoring increases, operators are responsible for the hazardous materials they handle and must take steps to ensure that they are properly controlled and contained at tall times. Operating discipline and a strong safety culture are essential across all stages of the facility life-cycle, from concept to decommissioning," said Cutler.

While one fatality was recorded on Dec. 24, 2008, the number of major injuries occurring on oil and gas facilities offshore Australia decreased from 13 in 2008 to 11 in 2009, and the rate of Lost Time Injuries greater than one day decreased from 3.34 to 2.42 for the first six months of 2010. The rate of Total Recordable Cases for the six months to June 30, 2010 was 8.02, slightly down from 8.21 recorded in 2009.

Man at working on a rig

The number of facilities increased each year up to 2009, while the number of hours worked offshore increased over the past year from 14.1 million to 14.4 million hours. The total number of hours worked for the first six months of 2010 is 15 percent less than the previous six months (July-December 2009) down from 7.8 million to 6.6 million hours worked.

Oil rig

Established in 2005 to regulate the health and safety of offshore petroleum operations in Commonwealth and designated coastal waters, NOPSA had jurisdiction over 171 offshore facilities managed by 31 active operators during the first half of this year. The number of operators has ranged between 28 and 36 per year.

In 2009, NOPSA initiated process safety leadership and culture surveys as part of selected planned inspections for onshore and offshore facilities. These surveys are an additional tool for NOPSA to raise process safety awareness on facilities and to promote discussion with operators. Preliminary analyses suggest a wide range of results across industry, indicating some facilities have a culture where there is room for considerable improvement.

"NOPSA expects strong and sustained leadership from industry to continually improve and reinforce robust health and safety systems at offshore petroleum facilities. We urge senior corporate and industry leaders to reflect on the NOPSA Offshore Health and Safety Performance Report (June 2010) and prioritse their activities to protect the health and safety of their offshore personnel," said Cutler.


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John Lopez | Sep. 18, 2010
I have been working in the oil & gas industry for close to 30 years..been in senior positions in maintenance, training, safety and management. The incidents figures indicate you are heading for a fatality...that will be one too many!! If we are just concerned only about statistics(e.g."...decreased from 13 in 2008 to 11 in 2009, and the rate of Lost Time Injuries greater than one day decreased from 3.34 to 2.42 ...") then it will just remain just that... ....statistics. Safety is and has to be stressed as the single most important priority goal of every single personnel (zero tolerance), be it the roustabout/deckhand or the /OIM/CEO, then everything will fall into perspective, training,operational procedures/decisions and profits....GUARANTEED!! Anything else will have a negative result (and the " blame game") as shown in the GOM BP incident.

Latip Kassim | Sep. 17, 2010
As ex OIM in Brunei Shell Petroelum and my view with regard to the incident can be avoidable. The Operators offshore must have good knowledge of Process Safety and embedded the Competency Assurance of individual and assessed with qualified Assessor. Once they are competent and each individual must also have confident of operating the facilities. This will continue of On the job training and coaching.

Peter | Sep. 17, 2010
Frank, I agree with you 100%. Whilst there is a real probability that more on the job training is required and given that the industry is in a busy campaign the quality of the people may have dipped the fact remains that these findings do not take into account the full picture of the man hours worked.

Frank | Sep. 14, 2010
The validity of these findings is somewhat in doubt. I fully appreciate the need for measuring data as effectively as possible, but there has been a massive construction and commissioning campaign of new facilities over the last two years, and that in itself will skew figures, and is reflected in the man hours worked data. Much of the risk and exposure is during commissioning, and therefore these initial hazards are reflected in the data. Steady production operations are, I believe, for the main part, very well conducted, with firmly set corporate procedures to follow. It is the flux time between construction and commissioning and production start up that safety cultures between differing corporate entities overlap and corporate responsibilities are blurred. A case in point would be the time line, decision making and procedural review processes that occur during hand over periods, and even during drilling campaigns. Inclement weather and a narrowing drilling window are all pressure bearers on limited budget operators. The recent Gulf and Timor Sea well blow outs are probable evidence to this. From personal experience there is often a notable difference in safety attitudes between corporate entities, but for the main part, I think operators have been doing quite well given the complexities of Australian operating license requirements.

hosein davodi | Sep. 14, 2010
Honorable Jane Cutler , the root causes of this situation is lack of and missing of On the Job Training(OJT) . As you know all operators and charge of valuable order of H.S,E have obligation and must spend these courses at their work site for Continual Improvement. In my opinion you must insist and assign this important principal of OHSAS 18001 (4-4-2) . Kind & best regards . Dr Davodi

arigbe anthony foghere | Sep. 14, 2010
It is time we take safety to the next level; Operation Zero tolerance!!!! Attitude of all personnel must be carefully boosted

Mark Wright | Sep. 14, 2010
If the little incidents are to continue, then I feel you could be looking at a major disaster with high loss of life.


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