The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned TotalEnergies over a series of failures in its maintenance processes on the Gryphon Alpha, leading to risks of “fire and explosion”.
According to an improvement notice from the watchdog, TotalEnergies “failed to take appropriate measures with a view to preventing fire and explosion” during gas compressor maintenance on the floating production storage and offload (FPSO) vessel, 200 miles off Aberdeen.
The main charge was that TotalEnergies had “not ensured the safe isolation of plant prior to the breaking of containment on hydrocarbon systems” following an inspection on April 19-21.
HSE said paperwork showed that HP Gas Compressor unit B had been marked as “isolated” to allow for maintenance work, but inspection of the isolation plan and how it was carried out showed “deficiencies” and that “valve integrity was not adequately proven”.
In addition, it found that one point of isolation – marked as “point 41” in paperwork – was found to be in the incorrect position. This point formed part of a system for preventing flow of hydrocarbon gas to the work site.
Safety regulations require all isolation points are verified by a second person with additional check points, and that all isolations are shown to the that person prior to work commencing.
‘They got lucky’
“By issuing of the work permits, you considered these checks to have been completed but still failed to identify the incorrect position of isolation point 41,” the report adds.
RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said the warning should serve as “a real opportunity to share learnings” on safety.
“This is the kind of improvement notice which should be shared across the sector to enable lessons to be learned about procedures associated with safety critical work,” he told Energy Voice.
He noted that had it not been for the inspection, the unsafe method may have been used again, with more serious consequences.
“On this occasion they got lucky.”
He added that the notice should be “a real opportunity to share learnings, rather than to point the finger or apportion blame.”
“The industry faces thousands of hours of backlog maintenance over this next period and this kind of work will be executed on many offshore installations. The HSE findings should be used to inform operators and workers alike across the sector why the need for robust systems to control work are vital if we are to avoid a catastrophic event.”
A spokesperson for TotalEnergies said: “Safety is our core value and the safety of our people and our assets is our priority. The issues raised by the HSE during their planned inspection were regrettable and disappointing for the team.
“We carried out our own internal investigation and are implementing the recommendations that resulted, which we are confident will address all aspects of the notice. This will include sharing the learnings with our offshore teams and the wider industry, part of the continuous drive to improve safety in the North Sea.”
The warning follows another improvement notice issued for the Gryphon last year, in which the HSE highlighted an increase in backlogged “safety and environmental-critical” maintenance.
Backlog rose from 7,000 man-hours in October 2020, to more than 11,000 man-hours in September 2021, the HSE said.
The FPSO serves the Gryphon field, around 200 miles north east of Aberdeen, as well as subsea tiebacks from the Tullich, Maclure and Ballindalloch developments.
TotalEnergies holds an 86.5% operating interest in the asset, alongside Sojitz Energy Development (13.5%).