A large oil and gas exploration and production company has taken action to prevent future gas leaks.
ConocoPhillips (UK) Limited recently admitted serious safety failings after two uncontrolled and one controlled but unexpected gas release on its Lincolnshire Offshore Gas Gathering System (LOGGS), which is situated around 70 miles off the coast of Lincolnshire.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector John Hawkins says it was only a matter of good fortune the leaks did not result in a fatal accident.
Two releases on November 30, 2012 occurred because of maintenance work to replace a gas pressure control valve on one of three gas turbines used to generate electricity for LOGGS.
The fuel gas pressure safety valve and a flexible hose had to be removed, but inadequate isolation and planning allowed gas to come out of an open-ended pipe connected to the high pressure vent system.
A breakdown in communications across the five platforms of LOGGS also meant some workers incorrectly believed the platform was gas-free, putting the lives of up to 66 workers on board in danger of a gas explosion. An estimated 603kg of produced hydrocarbon gas was released during the incident.
Another gas release on December 1, 2012 happened after batteries ran down, although this time the isolation valve was closed in time.
HSE served ConocoPhillips (UK) Limited with a Prohibition Notice in December 2012. It has since made modifications to LOGGS incident command system.
The company pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995. It was fined £3 million (£1 million for each offence) and ordered to pay costs of £159,459.
‘Could have caused death’
Mr Hawkins said the incidents could easily have resulted in workers being killed, following a hearing at Lincoln Crown Court.
He declared there was a failure to identify the risk posed by the high-pressure vent systems when carrying out intrusive maintenance work.
ConocoPhillips (UK) Limited should have assessed the full extent of the maintenance intervention work and identified the full isolations required. Failure to carry out an adequate risk assessment meant the company put the lives of its employees in real danger.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: February 28, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown