Norway orders BP to implement safety measures


LONDON -- Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) has ordered BP to implement immediate measures to comply with fire- and explosion-prevention requirements at its Ula P oil platform following an oil and gas leak in September at the North Sea facility.

BP's safety record globally remains under scrutiny more than two years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, when a rig leased by BP exploded in the US Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 and leading to the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

The order from Norway's PSA comes as BP said Nov. 15 that it had agreed to accept criminal responsibility in the US for the Deepwater Horizon disaster and pay $4.5 billion in fines and restitution.

In the order, Norway's PSA said that fire protection for the main substructure and process equipment on the Ula P processing platform were inadequate and passive fire protection needed to be installed.

Such protection would slow a fire from spreading and protect the steel structure of the platform from deformation, the PSA said in a statement issued late Monday.

The PSA also said that walls between the processing modules on the platform, where hydrocarbons are separated into oil, gas and water, don't have sufficient protection from explosion and need to be strengthened.

BP has until Dec. 31, 2012, to comply with the PSA's order.

BP said it is working on a plan on the short-term, medium-term and long-term actions to resolve the shortfalls. The short-term actions, which include reducing areas for hot work such as welding and improving protection of valves in the process plant with passive fire protection, would be implemented within the deadline.

"Some actions will be of longer term as these involve new fire and explosion studies. We will in accordance with best practice execute these and implement measures required to comply with the notification," BP said in a statement.

On Sept. 18, BP said a leak had forced it to shut down the platform in the southern sector of the North Sea earlier that month. BP restarted production at Ula on Nov. 17.

At the time, the PSA said the hydrocarbon leak from the platform Sept. 12 was "substantial" and described the episode as having "substantial potential." Nobody was injured in the incident.

BP maintains it is placing safety at the heart of its global operations, shutting down platforms around the world for safety checks and extensive maintenance. Incidents like Ula risk undermining the company's claims on safety standards.

Earlier this year, BP halted output at its Foinaven Field in the North Sea after a leak was discovered in an underwater connecting pipeline. Last year, a fire at the Valhall production platform, also in the North Sea, led to a production shutdown at the field for more than two months.

Dow Jones Newswires

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