Findings on BP Valhall Fire Released

BP has been ordered to take immediate steps to address a number of “serious breaches” of regulations in connection with a fire on its Valhall platform last year.

The Petroleum Safety Authority said the July 13 fire involved the breakdown of a crane engine due to overheating, which led to a fire in the vent stack of the platform’s compressors. The blaze led to production at the 40,000 barrel a day field shutting down for more than two months.

“Overheating combined with a defective spark arrestor and silencer meant that red-hot particles leaving the exhaust pipe blew across and ignited flammable gases from the vent stack,” the regulator said in a statement.

No people were injured in the incident, although the safety body said that under slightly different circumstances it could have escalated and led to the loss of life.

The findings once again put the U.K. energy giant’s record under the spotlight nearly two years after a rig leased by BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men and leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. That incident followed a blast at its Texas City Refinery in 2005 that resulted in the deaths of 15 workers. Chief Executive Bob Dudley has sought to put safety at the core of the company’s operations since then, but incidents like Valhall risk undermining claims that BP is indeed implementing higher standards.

“The PSA’s investigation of the incident has identified a number of serious breaches of the regulations related to BP’s management system,” the agency said. “These relate to lack of maintenance, deficient maintenance management, inadequacies in risk identification and deficient barrier management.”

BP has been given until Feb. 1 to provide a plan for addressing the faults on the installation identified by the PSA, with work to be completed by July 1. However, the regulator doesn’t intend to recommend the matter for police investigation, said PSA spokesman Oyvind Midttun. The company would only be liable for sanctions or fines if the PSA passed the case on to Norway’s judicial authorities.

New York-based Hess  is the majority owner of Valhall, with a 64 percent stake. BP operates the field and owns the remaining stake.

The production platform is one of five in a complex serving the oil field, which is located about 290 km (180 miles) off southern Norway.

Valhall’s oil production is piped to the offshore Ekofisk Centre and then on to Teesside, England. Natural gas from the platform is transported by pipeline to Emden, Germany.