Offshore lessons from Norway

Moira Baird
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Safety expert points to trends in the oil and gas industry

When it comes to offshore safety, an Australian-based risk management expert says Norway is one of the countries leading the way.

Kimberley Turner, CEO of Aerosafe Risk Management, told the Wells Inquiry Monday the Norwegian regulatory regime is open, transparent and makes a variety of reports and safety audits publicly available on its website.

Kimberley Turner, CEO of Aerosafe Risk Management, prepares to testify at the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry Monday morning. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

When it comes to offshore safety, an Australian-based risk management expert says Norway is one of the countries leading the way.

Kimberley Turner, CEO of Aerosafe Risk Management, told the Wells Inquiry Monday the Norwegian regulatory regime is open, transparent and makes a variety of reports and safety audits publicly available on its website.

"Everything is public. Everything's available," she told the inquiry.

For the past 15 years, Turner said Norwegian offshore regulators have been moving towards performance-based rules - and a similar shift is now taking place in other parts of the world.

St. John's East MP Jack Harris is concerned about the province's offshore oil industry moving in the same direction - saying it lacks the kind of regulatory teeth available in Norway.

"They've already (made) the shift to performance-based guidelines and all of that, but they've got no teeth because the regulations aren't there," he told reporters.

"That's why I emphasized the Norwegian model where they have had and still have very significant enforcement powers."

Harris has standing to take part in the Wells Inquiry into offshore safety.

The inquiry's mandate is to find ways to improve offshore helicopter safety.

The inquiry was established following the March 12, 2009, helicopter crash that killed 17 offshore workers and flight crew.

Turner's company was hired as consultant to produce reports for the inquiry. Among them, a review of other offshore regulators, such as Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority, the U.K. Health and Safety Executive, and Australia's National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority.

Turner told the inquiry of the trend toward separate regulators for safety and the production side of the oil and gas industry.

She said there's been "a separation of power from safety and the commercial and production side of things.

"That is not unusual for a regulator that has a safety oversight function to really examine where safety sits."

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), which created the Wells inquiry last year, regulates safety in the province's oil industry.

It also oversees resource management, exploration and production.

Its chief safety officer has the power to act independently and issue directives that do not require prior approval of the CNLOPB's board of directors, according to the legislation governing the regulator.

Harris questioned the petroleum board's dual responsibilities and the shift towards performance-based regulations.

"They are engaged in active development of the offshore, and safety has to be seen as something that's by itself significant and important," said Harris.

"The industry has to be seen as adhering to the standards set by others - not by themselves."

Turner said performance-based regulations are another trend in the industry.

These rules set goals for oil and gas companies to meet, and companies must demonstrate to regulators how they plan to achieve the goals.

It differs from what's known as prescriptive regulations that use compliance check lists to ensure the rules are followed.

"Rather than writing a rule or a regulation that could cover every particular scenario or case in an industry, the aim of performance-based regulation is to say: this is the outcome that we wish for you to achieve, how you achieve it up to you," said Turner.

"The performance-based regulation is about being prescriptive on the outcome, as opposed to the way in how you achieve it."

Harris said a shift in regulatory emphasis does not mean performance-based rules ought to replace prescriptive rules.

"As the witness said (Monday) afternoon, you have to have both. It's not an either-or proposition.

"What we've got missing here is the kind of enforceable regulations that would give some teeth to the CNLOPB.

"We don't have a blend of both."

The inquiry resumes Tuesday with testimony from experts on cold water training, survival and immersion suits.

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Wells Inquiry, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Aerosafe Risk Management U.K. Health and Safety Executive National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority

Geographic location: Norway, Australia

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Recent comments

  • Jim
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    With operators drilling in deeper and deeper water and far more hostile environments, it is important that regulations be improved to prevent (as much as humanly possible) the chances of a massive spill. The oil industry should definitely not be allowed to self-police and they should understand that penalties for breaching regulations will be punitive in proportion to the value of the company.
    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  • PIerre Neary
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    The Well's Inquiry has already proven that a separate safety regime is badly needed. Randell Earles line of questioning and how badly the Board and Operators responded to this was telltale for safety in the industry. A separate regime with inspectors who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and to ask the tough questions is essential for the safety of the workers. The Draft Offshore Safety Regulations posted on the Boards site (six years ago) are laughable at best and an
    embarrassment. Time to shake things up at the CNLOPB kingdom. Maybe the AG should visit.