Response to media focus on the environment and safety at the Ula oil field
Ula oil field in the Norwegian part of the North Sea. Photo: BP
Energiwatch, a Danish online media outlet, has reported in several articles that environmental and safety regulations have not been observed on one of the oil platforms where DONG Energy is a licence partner. The platform in question is in the Ula oil field, of which DONG Energy owns a 20% share, while BP owns 80% and is the operator of the field.
Environmental and safety matters are of the utmost importance to DONG Energy. This means that all guidelines for oil and gas production must be followed as a matter of course. This also applies to the platform in the Ula oil field which has received media attention. As a licence partner, DONG Energy does not have operational responsibility for the platform, but we are in close dialogue with the operator, BP, to improve the situation at the platform in the Ula oil field and ensure that production complies with the applicable regulations. This happens, for example, during regular status meetings and ad hoc meetings at the technical and managerial level.
The media articles have focused on two issues:
The oil concentration in produced water from the platform has exceeded the limits set by the Norwegian authorities during certain periods
Various guidelines on safety procedures, maintenance and the working environment on the platform have not been observed in some situations
Oil concentration in produced water
Between October 2013 and May 2014, excessive oil concentrations in the produced water from the Ula platform were detected in five of the months. Produced water is the accompanying water pumped up when oil is extracted from underground. The oil is filtered out and most of the water is re-injected underground. The rest of the water is discharged into the sea.
The oil concentration must not exceed 30mg per litre of produced water. In five months during 2013 and 2014, this limit was exceeded.
The average oil concentration was within the allowed limit in both 2013 and 2014, seen over the entire year.
The high oil concentrations during the given months were due to two factors:
Operational difficulties with water injection pumps
Difficulties in separating oil from the produced water coming from the nearby Blane oil field due to low temperatures in the pipeline. Oil and water are best separated at high temperatures.
In January 2015, BP reported on how they had responded to the difficulties and were monitoring the oil concentration. In a memo from February 2015, the Norwegian Environment Agency reports that it looks positively on BP's follow-up.
Deviations from safety guidelines
In November 2014, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway inspected the safety processes, maintenance and working environment on the Ula platform. According to the Authority, most operating routines are in order, but it also noted a number of deviations from the regulations – of a non-critical nature – and three points for improvement requiring attention:
Employees should be more systematically trained in the risks associated with the work.
There are places on the platform where maintenance access is severely limited.
Processes for determining and following up on adjustments and changes to requirements, such as new technical requirements, are inadequate.
BP is in the process of handling these improvements, and DONG Energy meets regularly with BP to discuss the status of the work.