Report investigates trend in increasing hydrocarbon releases

HSE's Major Hazards Strategic Program Plan outlined targets that aimed for a 10% year-on-year reduction in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases from offshore installations from the 2001/02 baseline of 113 to 60 by the end of 2007/08.

Offshore staff

DERBYSHIRE, UK -- HSE's Major Hazards Strategic Program Plan outlined targets that aimed for a 10% year-on-year reduction in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases from offshore installations from the 2001/02 baseline of 113 to 60 by the end of 2007/08. However, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of these releases from offshore installations that require investigation, according to The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL).

The HSL has completed an analysis of HSE's Hydrocarbon Release (HCR) and RIDDOR databases in order to identify the main causes of major and significant releases between 2001 and 2007. The report, which was recently published, highlights possible reasons to explain why the number of increases has been growing over recent years and determine if there any discernable reasons for this trend.
Key findings from the report include:
• Gas HCRs are the most common
• Older installations (>20 years old) experience most releases
• Releases from installations in most age ranges seem decrease over time except the 10-15 year age range, which seems to be increasing
• Gas compression systems result in most HCRs, followed by export and utility systems
• Piping is the most common equipment to experience HCRs, followed by instruments and flanges
• Mechanical failure and fatigue are the main equipment failure modes and corrosion is also a significant contributor
• Incorrectly fitted equipment is the most common operational cause of HCRs followed by improper operation
• Non-compliance with procedure is the most common procedural based cause of HCRs, followed by deficient procedures
• Most releases occur during normal operational modes.

In general, the report provides evidence that human factors have an important part to play in the prevention and limitation of HCRs. Human involvement reaches deep into design, operation, and procedure and also is vital in the discovery of releases. The report indicates that automatic detection systems fail to spot a significant proportion of releases that are ultimately discovered by operators who detect releases by visual means, closely followed by sound and smell.

According to the HSL, the findings from the report will enable HSE inspectors to better plan intervention strategies and target resources towards areas where HCRs more frequently occur, have highest potential consequence, or have greatest potential to escalate. HSE are participating with a new industry-led technical working group chaired by Oil & Gas UK with the aim of examining causes of HCRs and developing strategies for their reduction. The report is an important feeder document to this work group, the organization says.

03/13/2009

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