Swire Pacific Offshore has been hit with a Health and Safety (HSE) improvement notice after an incident involving Shell’s Curlew FPSO in the North Sea.
The move comes after Shell were also hit with a warning notice last year following the incident in January 2015.
An investigation had been launched after the suspected gas leak on the FPSO, which is 130 miles south east of Aberdeen.
The HSE notice said Swire Pacific Offshore had “failed” to ensure the health and safety of its employees and others, on the station keeping assist vessel (SKAV) Pacific Dolphin, from the risk of “serious injury from an uncontrolled release of hydrocarbon gas” from the export pipeline connected to the Shell FPSO Curlew’s subsea isolation valve skid.
The notice read: “On January 19, 2015 the SKAV Pacific Dolphin was connected with a towline to Shell’s FPSO Curlew with an inadequate safe system of work, in that you did not carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the operation, your job specific analysis worksheet (JSA) failed to identify the specific risk of damaging the live export pipeline and so releasing its 125 barg hydrocarbon inventory.
“The Curlew 2014/2015 Station Keeping Bridging Document, issued December 2014, revision 2.2, was not being adhered to in that the activity specific operating guidelines were not being followed, in that the tow line underwater catenary depth was not maintained in accordance with the catenary table.
“As the Curlew swung to the tide the distance between the Pacific Dolphin and the Curlew was allowed to decrease and the tow line tension decreased allowing the towline catenary to reach the seabed.
“Further, the Pacific Dolphin was operating in Dynamic Positioning (DP) mode which was not a specific requirement for the station keeping operation and the vessel was not adequately manned to operate in DP mode or manual mode at the time of the incident in that there was only one officer on the bridge to control and monitor this critical operation.
“As a result the tow line snagged the gas export pipeline connected to the subsea isolation valve skid located on the seabed at a depth of 90 metres and with a gas inventory directly proportional to its 12 inch diameter, 125 bar operating pressure and 21 km length, the SKAV crew applied increased tension to the towline until the pipeline ruptured and released its inventory of gas to the sea surface resulting in a major hydrocarbon release thus exposing employees and others to a risk of serious injury from fire and/or explosion.”
At the time of the incident, Shell had planned to evacuate more than 50 members of staff at the time but bad weather had prevented the safety measure.
In 2014, Shell had decided it was necessary to connect the Station Keeping Assist Vessel (SKAV), the Pacific Dolphin, to the Curlew FPSO because of concerns about its mooring lines.
A spokesman for Swire Pacific Offshore said: “Swire Pacific Offshore can confirm that it has received the HSE Improvement Notice issued on 5th January 2016.
“This is the first Improvement Notice in the history of the company since it was founded in 1975.
“Health and safety of our employees and contractors is our top priority at Swire Pacific Offshore and avoiding any damage to property and the environment is of the utmost importance.
“Following the FPSO Curlew incident back in January 2015, Swire Pacific Offshore has given the HSE authorities its full cooperation and we have taken prompt actions to conduct a thorough review to improve our work practices, policies, procedures and training materials.
“A comprehensive Corrective Action Plan that addresses all the specific recommendations made by HSE has been drawn up and the plan puts in place additional measures that go above and beyond the specific requirements.”
A Shell spokesman said: “Shell can confirm that it was issued with an Improvement Notice on 28th July 2015, in relation to our Management of Change Processes and Marine Operations at our Curlew Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO).
“The relevant authorities were informed and the matter remains under HSE investigation.”