Norway's PSA Orders Halt to Marathon's Diving Activities

Petroleum Safety Authority Norway

As a consequence of several recent incidents involving manned underwater operations (MUO) on the Alvheim field, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has issued a direct order to Marathon Petroleum Norge AS (Marathon) calling for an immediate halt to the diver activities.

The direct order instructing Marathon to halt all MUO activities was issued in a meeting in the PSA's offices on September 14th. Marathon has also been ordered to examine and investigate the incidents and identify, implement and verify necessary measures before manned underwater operations are resumed.

The deadline for complying with the order is October 2, 2006. The PSA must be notified when the order has been carried out.

The PSA has received notification of a total of five serious MUO incidents in which Technip Offshore Norway and the facility DSV Wellservicer were the contractors for the diving operations, with Marathon as operator.

Three incidents are related to the SLS system (secondary life support unit), which divers carry on their backs to provide breathing air for ten minutes in the event that the normal air supply should fail.

In two incidents, personnel neglected or forgot to add a chalk box to the SLS. This device cleans carbon dioxide from breathing air. This omission would have led to serious problems, and could have caused a dangerous situation for a diver that needed the extra air. The third SLS incident involved damage to air hoses on this equipment during the dive.

Two incidents are linked to power supply from the diving vessel, in which the vessel lost power from multiple generators, which means a loss of barriers.

There has also been unsatisfactory reporting of several of these incidents to the Petroleum Safety Authority.

On two occasions (August 17th and September 6th), the PSA has met with Marathon to review individual incidents involving manned underwater operations.

Based on these incidents, the PSA finds there are grounds for questioning whether MUO can be carried out in a prudent and safe manner, and has therefore issued this order calling for an immediate halt to these activities.

Diving activities on the Norwegian shelf
A significant amount of work and considerable resources have been devoted to achieving a high level of safety in diving on the Norwegian shelf.

There have been no reports of personal injuries or near-misses involving diving activities on the Norwegian shelf in the past two years.

No lives have been lost in connection with diving activity on the Norwegian shelf since 1987.