PSA follows advice from Engen committee?

The Engen-committee presented its report in August 2013 (here), one of the main points was that the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) needed to utilize more of its tools in its supervisory activities. Traditionally, PSA has only used dialog and injunctions, which are mild reactions. Stopping activities, fines and prosecution have never been used by PSA. Trust has been one of the basic fundaments of the PSA approach.

The development at the Goliat field the last few weeks suggests that PSA in this case is stepping up the use of tools in its supervisory activities, the operator has been ‘persuaded’ to stop the production by its own decision for several weeks, in order to resolve outstanding safety issues, of both technical and organizational nature.

The information in the public domain is very fragmented, but there have been indications that Goliat has had several serious gas leaks since production started half a year ago, and that the power loss in the end of August also was caused by presence of gas where it should not have been.

The impression based on what is available in the public domain is that Goliat represents a clash between cultures, the Norwegian approach based on trust, and the Italian culture based on authority and rank internally and promises made to external parties that may be somewhat ‘optimistic’, and not necessarily always intended to be kept. The same impression was created during the few months prior to permission to start up the production. If this is the case, the trust is misplaced.

We think the PSA has made a wise decision, to ensure that the production is stopped until all outstanding issues have been resolved. Whether this is a permanent shift in PSA remains to be seen, but it is somewhat difficult to see that PSA’s trust can be reestablished quickly in the case of Goliat. We think that PSA’s trust also in some few other cases could be reconsidered.

The current Norwegian Minister of Labour and social affairs has recently reiterated that the ambition is for Norway to be world leading in offshore health and safety. In times like these, with extreme pressure on cost cutting, it would seem appropriate for PSA to look critically at its own use of tools.

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