The UK’s safety regulator has reprimanded TotalEnergies after crane equipment on the Dunbar platform was left in a poor state of repair for several years.
An improvement notice was issued to the operator after inspectors found it had failed to maintain gearboxes on the pedestal crane on its northern North Sea Dunbar platform in “efficient working order and in good repair” since 2016.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) representatives recorded a “significant deterioration” in ‘slew backlash’ readings during an inspection in November 2022. The findings suggest the gearbox used to move the crane boom horizontally could suffer from reduced motion, due to excess play or gaps between the teeth of the gears.
TotalEnergies (XPAR:TTE) has confirmed the equipment in question will be replaced by the end of October.
According to the notice, the operator was advised last November to take necessary actions, and committed in writing to replace the gearboxes by 26 May 2023 but apparently “failed to do so.”
“You then committed to repairing the slew drive gearboxes during [the] week of 10 July 2023, but failed to do so,” the HSE representative continued.
At a meeting on 4 August, TotalEnergies representatives told the HSE they had attempted to replace the components “but could not as they were seized in place”
The HSE says this was “foreseeable given the survey works previously completed.”
An internal risk assessment from August recorded that the deterioration “could cause a fatality” and that it was unable reduce the risks of harm through additional controls without the replacement of the gearboxes.
The notice gives the operator until 31 October 2023 to remedy the situation.
TotalEnergies told Energy Voice it had been working to address the issue but faced technical difficulties, reiterating that the chance of any potential fatal consequences as a result was “very unlikely”.
A spokesperson for the company said: “We received an improvement notice on our Dunbar asset due to delayed maintenance on a crane gearbox. Work had commenced but we faced some technical difficulties which delayed the repair.
“We presented a timebound plan to the HSE, which has been accepted as part of the improvement notice. The gearbox will be replaced by 31/10/23.
“We are in a high-risk industry and in many of our risk assessments, death could be the ultimate potential consequence. It is our task to reduce the likelihood of this happening, and to ensure the safety of everyone working on all our assets.
“In this instance, we deemed the likelihood of such an outcome to be very unlikely due to the mitigations we put in place. The fear of regulatory enforcement should not stop us from being honest about the risks attached to our operations.
They added that the company prides itself in being “open and honest with the HSE on all our sites and during all inspections.”
“We respect their findings and respond as required.”
The group has been commended for its approach to transparency around safety, having shared footage and lessons from a major safety incident involving a helicopter in the North Sea during Storm Otto.
However, the recent notice is one of several warnings raised by safety inspectors at Dunbar, along with a host of other North Sea assets and companies.
Data revealed by Energy Voice via Freedom of Information requests showed the HSE had written to the operator regarding several areas of concern including expired certification dates for lifejackets, fire deluge system testing and “multiple well integrity issues” on one of the production wells.
Discovered in 1973 and brought on-line in 1994, Dunbar lies in the Alwyn area of the North Sea, near to two bridge-linked Alwyn North platforms and a series of subsea fields tied back to the installations.