UK HSE Says Hydrocarbon Leaks Decreasing

"Hydrocarbon releases offshore are coming down but more still needs to be done", said Taf Powell, head of HSE's Offshore Safety Division said. Hydrocarbon release reduction is currently one of HSE's key programs of work aimed at delivering targeted resources to tackle potential major hazard initiating events.

"Leak reduction has been one of HSE's highest priorities in recent years. Together with much of industry, HSE has put in a considerable amount of effort into trying to reduce the annual level of offshore hydrocarbon release and we have therefore been particularly pleased to see that this effort is now bearing fruit.

"The target we set industry was to achieve a 50% reduction in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases by the end of year 2003/2004. In the first two years of the campaign, up to the end of March this year, that figure fell by 21.6% while the number of releases in the major category alone fell by 66% which is particularly encouraging. To obtain such a large reduction in major releases in such a relatively short period of time is excellent news. I'm pleased to report that this year the downward trend seems to be continuing.

"I welcome the reductions so far but we should be under no illusions. It is going to require a sustained effort from everybody involved in the industry if the overall target is to be met. Leak reduction is not an area where one can ever relax - it is only by being continually vigilant, continually bearing down on the problem, that success is likely to be achieved. "One of the most pleasing aspects of the release reduction campaign so far has been the degree of collaboration and co-operation that appears to have taken place both between different companies in the industry and also between the industry and HSE.

"From our own analysis of the causes of hydrocarbon releases, it is clear that the vast majority occur not for reasons of great technical complexity but rather as a result of failure to follow some of the basics in areas such as the making of bolted pipe joints. If we can get a common understanding of what constitutes good practice in these problem areas and then secure wide conformance with good practice once it has been agreed, we should be able to make significant inroads into the number of related releases."