Norway Regulator: Serious Shortcomings In BP Safety

(Dow Jones Newswires), Nov. 30, 2011

BP's efforts to monitor and respond to sudden pollution releases such as oil spills in the Norwegian Sea suffer from "very serious shortcomings" that demand immediate improvement, Norwegian regulators said.

An October investigation during drilling at the Skarv field by Norway's Climate and Pollution Agency, a directorate under the Ministry of the Environment, found that BP couldn't document how it has designed preparedness against sudden pollution releases, the agency said Tuesday.

The report is the latest criticism of safety issues at BP, after a massive oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and numerous other accidents in recent years. In the wake of the Gulf spill, BP appointed a global head of safety to its executive management team.

"We take this situation very seriously," Bjorn Bjornstad, director of the agency's department of control, water and international affairs, said in a statement.

The investigation concluded that BP hadn't established sufficient systems to detect emergency contamination within three hours, nor could it prove that its preparations were based on national performance standards, the Norwegian agency said.

"Simply put, they weren't good enough," Bjornstad told Dow Jones Newswires, adding that the agency would impose stricter control on BP during 2012.

BP is now undertaking measures to correct the situation and the agency met with the energy major Friday to discuss the issue. The U.K. company told the agency what measures it will implement to comply with the regulations, and will shortly present it with a written report on the issue.

A BP spokesman said the company was "well on the way" to addressing the shortcomings identified.

"It isn't the case that we don't have a response plan, but we can improve and strengthen our preparedness," said Jan Erik Geirmo.

The measures concern both the Skarv field and future BP activities in Norway.

"Regarding Skarv specifically, we have installed a radar system--already operational--that gives us an additional oil-on-water detection program," Geirmo said. "With respect to the other aspects, we are in turn improving functions and have a plan in place to close the other gaps."

The Norwegian agency also said it isn't satisfied with the preparedness for acute pollution when it comes to several other operators on the Norwegian continental shelf. The agency earlier this year had talks with both Norwegian oil and gas major Statoil and French company Total over the same issue.

Statoil spokesman Ola Anders Skauby confirmed that Statoil had received an improvement notice in June related to the Halten bank in the Norwegian Sea. Skauby said that while Statoil believes "operational preparedness for sudden pollution at the Norwegian Continental Shelf has never been better," he acknowledged that there had been some cases revealed by the agency where regulations hadn't been fully complied with.

Total wasn't immediately available for comment.

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