Bellona: Statoil’s decision to resume production at unstable well is irresponsible

Publish date: July 23, 2010

Written by: Ola Innset

Translated by: Maria Kaminskaya

In what Bellona believes was an extremely irresponsible move, the Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil has resumed production at Gullfaks C – a platform it shut down two months ago when pressure started to rise dangerously high in one of the wells. Statoil is moving forward despite lingering safety concerns and with no regard for the request for information filed by Bellona.

Gullfaks C, an oil platform operated by Statoil in the North Sea, was shut down last May after the company, following a series of incidents bearing frightening similarity to the events that precipitated the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, failed, for the third time in a row, to keep oil pressure under control in one of the wells.

Both Statoil and the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway have been reluctant to provide ample information as to the current developments at the site, and Bellona has spent considerable resources to try to gain an insight into the situation that Statoil is claiming it has brought fully under control.
The result of these attempts is an eight-page document in which Bellona’s specialists conclude that oil pressure in the well is still abnormally high and that Statoil is in fact in no position to guarantee that all risks involving the well have been safely eliminated. (Bellona’s findings on the situation at Gullfaks C are available here).

“This is disturbing, and very worrisome,” said Bellona’s head Frederic Hauge. “It shows that Statoil is willing to take huge shortcuts when it comes to safety. These are poor and temporary solutions stemming from the pressure brought about by the big economic losses in the oil industry.”

Hauge is furthermore indignant over what he perceives to be a less-than-honest approach the oil company has taken to deal with the situation. As one example, Bellona sent Statoil in early June a letter with twenty-one specific questions about what has been going on at Gullfaks C, but is yet to receive a confirmation that the inquiry was even received by the company.

“We are dissatisfied with the lack of transparency both on the part of Statoil and the Petroleum Safety Authority. This is undoubtedly a matter of public interest, so how are we supposed to trust Statoil when we can’t even find out what’s going on?” says Hauge. “I hope when politicians return from their summer vacations, they can sit down and look at these outrageous practices that have taken hold in the state-owned oil company.”