Off-shore accident prompts fresh concerns over ageing oil platforms
An SIC councillor has voiced renewed concerns over the maintenance of ageing oil-installations in the North Sea following an accident on board an off-shore installation.
Alastair Cooper says much of the oil industry hardware used in the East Shetland Basin is ripe for replacement, having laboured in harsh conditions for 30 or 40 years.
“A lot of it is old technology. The technology was not new, necessarily, when it went in,” he said.
“It’s a pretty hostile environment. My concern is there will be increasing safety issues as the stuff gets older.”
His warning comes after a crane was involved in an accident on the Brent Charlie platform 116 miles north-east of Lerwick on Sunday. Click to view a plan of the Brent oil field.
No-one was injured in the incident and production has not been affected, but operator Shell has mobilised an investigation team to establish how the accident occurred.
Mr Cooper raised similar concerns in January when an oil leak on board the Cormorant Alpha platform 94 miles east of Shetland forced a temporary shut-down of the entire Brent pipeline. Oil and Gas UK, which represents the offshore industry, subsequently defended the industry’s record.
The councillor’s warning comes ahead of the 25th anniversary on Saturday of the Piper Alpha disaster, which resulted in the deaths of more than 160 people.
Mr Cooper said the industry has, in many ways, learned from past mistakes since the 1988 tragedy. He pointed to the Piper Alpha disaster being largely down to human error, which the oil and gas sector had subsequently moved to mitigate against.
But he warned there could be a dramatic impact on Shetland should an incident take place off-shore on one of the ageing platforms.
“I do have this concern about old kit in the northern sector of the North Sea. God forbid that there is a Piper Alpha again, but you’re dealing with old kit that is prone to failure, and you could have a catastrophic failure out there, with the best will in the world.
“I’m not so concerned about a repeat of Piper Alpha because, with Piper Alpha, there was a degree of human error.
“I’m more concerned with the state of the equipment, and the environmental impact if it was in a perfect storm where it was heading towards Shetland.
“I’m less concerned about human intervention because there are a lot of lessons that have been learned, and a lot of safety policies put in place.”
A statement from Shell UK’s senior spokesman Jonathan French said: “Shell UK Ltd can confirm that an incident involving a crane occurred on 30th June 2013 on the Brent Charlie platform. No one was injured in the incident but the crane and some of its support structures were damaged.
“The crane and the surrounding area has been made safe and an investigation team has been mobilised. Production from the platform has not been affected.”