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January 14, 2011

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Oil and gas firms commit to halving offshore leaks

A number of oil and gas companies are supporting an initiative to cut offshore leaks by 50 per cent over the next three years.
The initiative has been launched by Step Change in Safety, the UK-based partnership that champions improved safety standards in the offshore sector. The group was founded in 1997 by the industry’s trade associations with the aim of reducing the injury rate among UK offshore workers.

While responsibility for meeting the target will fall first and foremost to companies managing the UK’s offshore oil and gas installations, Step Change in Safety will drive the reduction at an industry level by sharing with its member companies analyses of root causes of incidents, addressing the management of ageing assets, and circulating best practice.

In August, the HSE issued a warning to bosses in the offshore industries following a steep rise in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases. Figures released by the watchdog on 24 August showed that the number of unplanned hydrocarbon releases soared by almost 40 per cent, from 61 in 2008/09 to a provisional 85 in 2009/10.

The HSE is supporting the Step Change in Safety campaign, which aims to halve the number of accidental offshore hydrocarbon releases. Step Change in Safety has asked the managing directors of its member companies to build this reduction target into their business plans.

Step Change in Safety’s co-chair John Forrest said: “I am very pleased by this strong commitment to tackle hydrocarbon releases and I’m encouraged that senior industry leaders across the board have taken this opportunity to prove they put safety at the very forefront.

“Since Step Change in Safety was founded there has been a 44-per-cent reduction in major and significant hydrocarbon releases. However, the last few years have shown the numbers of hydrocarbon releases have been ‘flat-lining’.

“We all took the decision that now is the time to bolster our efforts in order to drive this figure down even further.”
He pointed out that there are multiple barriers in place to stop releases of oil and gas, as well as further barriers to prevent them from escalating into a more serious incident. But he also stressed that, “safety is paramount and minimising the likelihood of a release occurring in the first place must come first.”

For more information on hydrocarbon releases and guidance on reporting hydrocarbons click here.

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