Shell gas release on Brent Charlie had potential for ‘fire or explosion’, says HSE

Shell gas release on Brent Charlie had potential for ‘fire or explosion’, says HSE

Written by  – 03/08/2017 7:30 am

Brent Charlie

Production on one of Shell’s oldest North Sea assets has been shut in for nearly three months after a gas leak sparked fears of the potential for a “fire or explosion”.

Non-essential workers were downmanned from the supermajor’s Brent Charlie platform following the suspected release back on May 19.

At the time Shell said production has been halted and that the source of the leak had been “isolated”.

Now it has emerged that production is still shut in at the ageing facility, 110 miles north-east of Shetland, months later.

The Brent field has been in production since the early 1970s and is one of the oldest and most prolific North Sea discoveries.

The Brent Charlie was the last of four platforms installed in the area, arriving in 1978.

Shell has now been served with a prohibition notice over the potential for “fire and explosion” in relation to the latest leak.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the oil giant had failed to act under the Offshore Prevention of Fire regulations.

The watchdog said the breach related to the possibility of an uncontrolled release of flammable or explosive hydrocarbons from safety critical pipework in the platform’s Column Four leg.

A Shell spokeswoman said: “Shell UK can confirm that we received a Prohibition Notice on 27th May 2017 in relation to pipe work integrity on our Brent Charlie installation in the northern North Sea.

“We continue to work through the necessary actions required to enable safe restart of the installation.”

During the May incident, platform personnel were brought to muster, as is standard practice. All 176 workers were safely accounted for and no injuries were reported.

Shell said production has been halted and the leak has been “isolated”.

The oil major has not given any information on the volume of gas involved but there is not through to have been any associated environmental issues.

Shell was hit with a prohibition notice earlier this year over safety concerns on the same platform.

HSE said Shell had failed to put appropriate controls in place to protect workers from dangerous gases in one of the platform’s legs.

The watchdog said the company had identified the risks of exposure to hydrogen sulphide and hydrocarbon gas while accessing the column C1 leg.

But Shell did not adequately describe how control measures would be “organised, controlled, monitored or reviewed”, according to HSE.

The prohibition notice was served early in February.

Prohibition notices dictate that work activity in a certain area or on a particular process must stop immediately.

Jake Molloy, RMT regional organiser, said issues in the legs of the Brent field platforms had been a “recurring” problem.

He added: “It is an issue that they have not been able to get a grip on.

“Hence they have been hit again with another notice.

“As long as it is shut in there’s no immediate danger to the guys on board from hydrocarbons.

“But managing this needs to be a top priority.”

The decommissioning of Brent field, which has produced oil for 40 years, is one of the most complex engineering projects of its kind and is expected to take a decade to complete.

Shell floated the idea of leaving the legs of three of the four platforms in place on the seabed earlier this year.

The field has more than 140 wells, 64 storage shells and 28 pipelines.





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