The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued an improvement notice to North Sea operator Apache over its failure to properly maintain supports to the flaring system on its Beryl hub.
According to the HSE notice, Apache had “not maintained the spring supports” on the flare pipework since 2013.
The spring supports work to reduce the likelihood of a hydrocarbon release in the event of a mechanical failure.
Apache was “unable to demonstrate the flare line has not been subjected to undue vibration induced stresses” due to three “seized and corroded” spring supports, HSE said.
The HSE notice outlined that since at least 2018, the company had failed to properly inspect the spring supports.
The notice said the supports “should have been maintained or replaced on several occasions since 2013, but the work has been constantly postponed”.
An HSE engineering query “required the spring supports to be replaced during 2020”, but the work was not undertaken.
Increased risk of pipe failure
A spokesperson for HSE told Energy Voice that “failing to maintain a pipe spring support increases the likelihood pipes failing in service through excessive stress caused by expansion or movement”.
“If the pipe contains hydrocarbons, then they could escape into the surrounding atmosphere and increase the risk to the health and safety of persons on the installation,” the spokesperson said.
In response to the HSE notice, a spokesperson for Apache told Energy Voice: “Apache North Sea can confirm we received an HSE notice on 10 November regarding the flare piping on Beryl Bravo.
“We are currently on target to replace the spring supports on the flare piping ahead of the HSE requirement. A full inspection of the flare pipeline is also currently underway.
“Apache is committed to safe and responsible operations. We carry out regular inspections on all our North Sea platforms and required maintenance is continually risk assessed and monitored.”
Apache HSE notices
The HSE notice follows a separate one issued earlier this year which found nearly 26,000 hours of safety-critical maintenance work left outstanding across several Apache North Sea platforms.
HSE inspectors also highlighted a “significant risk” of failure of a caisson in the Forties Alpha platform support structure in July.
The HSE issued the Forties Alpha warning among a catalogue of safety failings across more than a dozen North Sea platforms.