From: Reuters
Published March 13, 2008 07:06 AM

Norwegian watchdog raps StatoilHydro for spill

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's oil safety authority found "serious deficiencies" behind a December oil spill at StatoilHydro's Statfjord field in the North Sea and ordered the company to make improvements, the watchdog said on Thursday.

The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) also said: "No damage to the marine environment has so far been identified as a result of the spill."

But it added that a final assessment of the impact would have to wait until other studies are finished.

A broken loading hose leaked 77,500 barrels of crude into the sea on December 12, causing the second-biggest oil spill off Norway since petroleum was found there at the end of the 1960s, the PSA said in line with earlier announcements.

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The PSA blamed a "lack of robustness in the loading hose."

"Failure to allocate clear responsibilities, lack of risk understanding and design shortcomings in the loading system were among the underlying causes of the break in the Statfjord A loading hose operated by StatoilHydro on 12 December 2007," the PSA said.

It ordered StatoilHydro to clarify responsibilities, identify weaknesses in compliance with regulations and to make proposals for specific improvements by June 1.

"This is very much in line with our own investigation, so we are working with this and a lot of measures have already been implemented and others are planned, and we of course will comply with this," StatoilHydro spokeman Ola Morten Aanestad said.

The PSA said that it, the pollution control authority SFT and the Coastal Administration found a number of "non-conformances" with the health, safety and environmental regulations in parts of StatoilHydro's management system.

"The regulatory authorities take a serious view of this," the PSA said.

The early-morning spill was only discovered once it became light enough to see the oil on the sea, which reflects the inadequacy of systems for detecting abnormal conditions and preventing and limiting their consequences, it said.

The emergency response organization was not mobilized, though the company had enough information to do so and "the incident was reported to the authorities later than the regulations require."

Responsibility for the loading system is spread over several business areas of the company, which requires unified control and coordination, the PSA said.

"Follow-up of measures after a similar incident in 2004 have also been deficient," it said.

The spill is still under investigation by the Stavanger police department, the PSA said.

(Reporting by John Acher)

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