Norway's PSA Completes Investigation of Snorre A Blowout

"With only marginally different circumstances the gas blow-out at Snorre could have resulted in a major accident with the loss of many lives. Our conclusion is that the incident was not due to accidental circumstances, but a consequence of a general failure in Statoil's planning, procedures and assessments," says Director General Magne Ognedal of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA).

The PSA has now concluded its investigation of the subsea gas blow-out at Snorre A on November 28 & 29, 2004.

In total, the report has uncovered 28 non-conformities with the regulations, and several matters with potential for improvement.

The report concludes that all deviations would have been intercepted and corrected if the barriers* had functioned as intended - and it is very rare that so many barriers fail in different operational phases.

The PSA is highly critical of the fact that the comprehensive failure was not noted, and that the errors were not rectified before well P-31 ran out of control, and the gas blow-out was a fact.

In connection with the conclusions in the report, the PSA is notifying Statoil of a comprehensive order, based four repeated deviations:

  • Failure to comply with controlling documentation

  • Deficient assessments of overall risk

  • Deficient involvement of the management

  • Breach of the requirements for well barriers

  • In the notification of order, the PSA requests that the operator draw up a binding and time-specific plan for activities aimed at uncovering the causes of the non-conformities noted in the investigation report. As an extension of this plan, Statoil is to present the results of the measures the company has implemented, as well as a plan showing how the company will measure the impact of the measures.

    The industry must learn
    "The blow-out at Snorre A marks a sad day in Norwegian oil history. We could have experienced a tragedy with the loss of human life, environmental damage, and a greater loss of material assets than actually occurred," says Ognedal.

    Our investigation report must not only be reviewed thoroughly by Statoil's organization. The entire industry should look at this material in detail, and consciously work in order to learn from the event on Snorre A.

    * Barriers: The regulations require technical, operational and organizational barriers to both prevent serious incidents from taking place, and their escalation.