Oil and gas platforms stationed offshore can be dangerous places to work. From the rough seas that must be braved to get there, to flights on and off of platforms and accidents that occasionally happen on the platforms, there are a number of ways that workers can get hurt. A North Sea platform recently experienced one of these potentially dangerous accidents on October 16 early on a Sunday morning. A fire broke out on the Statfjord A, Statoil platform. Although the platform was evacuated because of the fire, no injuries were reported.
The Statfjord Oil Field and Statoil
The Statfjord oil field is an oil-producing region in the North Sea that straddles the boundary between Norway and the United Kingdom. It was first discovered by Mobil in 1974, but has been operated by Statoil since 1987. Statoil is a Norwegian oil and gas company with multinational operations. It is in the top 15 largest oil and gas companies in the world with the Norwegian government as the largest shareholder in the operation.
Statoil operates the Stafjord field with three platforms, called Statfjord A, B, and C. Statfjord A, on which the fire recently broke out, is the oldest and has been operating since 1979. The oil field is one of the oldest oil fields in production and is the largest in the North Sea. In September of 2016 Statfjord A was the site of a celebration recognizing that the oil field’s production has reached and surpassed five billion barrels. Statoil has recovered a record 67 percent of the oil in the field.
Fire on the Statfjord A
The fire occurred on Sunday morning, October 16. The manager of the platform reported that there was smoke and fire in a utility shaft at 8:20 that morning. Less than three hours later the manager officially reported that the fire had been extinguished. Sixty-seven people were on board the platform at the time and by 10:00 the morning of the fire, 20 had evacuated by helicopter to Statfjord B. Other crew members that did not have emergency responsibilities were loaded on to lifeboats.
Production Halted, Investigation Begun
In addition to initiating an emergency response on the platform, production at Statfjord A was halted. When production would resume was not certain, as an investigation into what happened began and confirmation that the fire was completely extinguished continued. Before production can restart the platform must be inspected for safety and function.
The investigation began almost immediately as a team from the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway flew out to the platform. The information given at the time of the incident was that an operator believed the fire began in a loading pump inside of a utility shaft. The investigation team will try to determine exactly how the fire started, if anyone was negligent in the fire, and that the response was adequate.
Because no one was hurt or killed in the incident, the investigation will largely look into how the fire began and what could have been done differently, if anything, to prevent it. Fires on board platforms must be taken seriously. The workers there are vulnerable to being hurt in a fire because it is easy to become stranded on a platform with no way to escape the fire. Strict safety and emergency response procedures must be followed to ensure that everyone is kept safe and that evacuation can happen quickly and smoothly. Fortunately in this incident, the emergency response seemed to go well and no one was hurt.