NFR informed in a telecon meeting just before the end of 2014 that there would be no new NFR funding programmes available for health, environment & safety (HES) projects in the petroleum sector in 2015. In fact all the funding for the 5 year programme 2012 – 16 has been allocated. Hopefully there will be a new programme from 2017. But the authorities could have caused additional funding to be made available. The implication is that neither the Ministry of labour and social affairs nor PSA has given sufficient priority to new funding for 2015 and 2016. This is extremely disappointing, when considering that the low oil prices will imply that funding from oil companies is likely to be considerably reduced, at the same time as new challenges will emerge as a function of the cost cutting regime due to the low prices.
This development is the sad low point of a curve that has been on the decline for several years, the available funding per year has been gradually reduced, and it has become more and more difficult to get approval of R&D projects with a sizeable budget, including allowance for at least 1 PhD candidate per project.
Some also claim that EU projects are focusing more and more on security and related issues, and less on industrial safety.
Norwegian authorities like to repeat that the ambition for the Norwegian offshore industry to be world leader in HES. This is not feasible to achieve without any costs for the industry, but also for the authorities. The authorities are often challenging the industry to “walk the talk” with respect to continuous improvement and risk reduction.
Yes, we know that the Norwegian sector has been free of fatal accidents lately; the last occupational fatality was in 2009, the last fatality in major accidents on the installations in 1985, the last helicopter accident was in 1997, and the last ignited hydrocarbon leak in 1992. But the major accidents worldwide have actually increased considerably the last 15 years, demonstrating clearly that major accidents are a real threat in the offshore industry.
It is perhaps time somebody also challenged the authorities to “walk the talk”, or perhaps more precisely to “pay the R&D ticket” in order to have continuous improvement of insight into sources of HES challenges and new models for risk reduction!