Oil spill drill raises alarms

Italian energy co. Eni and Norway’s Coastal Administration share emergency response resources in the north

Photo: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration / Flickr Crews cleaning up after the Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some feel Norway needs to do more to prevent such a disaster from happening in the North Sea.

Photo: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration / Flickr
Crews cleaning up after the Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some feel Norway needs to do more to prevent such a disaster from happening in the North Sea.

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

Eni Norway, operator of Goliat, and the NCA have entered into “a mutual assistance agreement for support vessels on the Goliat field.”

The deal is the first of its type in Norway, officials say. It concerns NCA towing preparedness and Eni Norway’s activities at the field. Eni will provide two emergency support vessels and make two supply vessels available. The NCA will assist Eni regarding the Goliat field and adjacent areas along the coast of West Finnmark.

“This is an effective way to exploit common emergency preparedness resources,” Johan Marius Ly, NCA Emergency Preparedness Director says in the statement.

Goliat is the first oil field to come on stream, according to the Administration. This follows start-up being delayed until Q3 2014, and the Petroleum Safety Authority’s June 2015 logistics domain audit uncovering several non-conformities.

April 2015 saw a failed oil spill response exercise off West Finnmark’s Sørøya. The maneuvers were designed to test emergency preparedness to prevent an oil slick from Goliat from reaching land.

The weather (Beaufort scale force 5—fresh breeze) meant that IUA (inter-municipal joint emergency preparedness taskforce) personnel had to abandon placing oil booms in the water. The exercise was altered underway, covering land oil spill clean-up and beach sanitation instead.

Rune Bergstrøm, NCA’s acting emergency preparedness leader, who was not involved in the rehearsal, told NRK then that “generally-speaking, one has to take precautions in terms of life and limb regarding people involved in oil spill response exercises.”

“Nobody in the world has emergency preparedness equipment that can tackle all types of weather conditions,” he added.

Eni Norway External Communication Manager Andreas Wulff underlined that Norway’s oil response equipment is “the best in the world.” According to him, there’s no reason to fear that beach clean-ups will have to be carried out. “Emissions won’t reach land if the weather is bad and they cannot be contained at sea due to the weather anyway,” he told NRK.

The NCA’s press release states that Eni Norway is known as a leader in oil spill response. “The contingency measures at the Goliat field are especially adapted to the area in which we operate,” Wulff says.

“It [the agreement] represents a strengthening of the capacity both within oil spill protection, towing, and search and rescue operations off the coast of West Finnmark.”

Greenpeace Norway leader Truls Gulowsen takes issue. “The article is obviously written by Eni’s PR department, as it claims that ‘Eni Norway is known as a leader in oil spill response,’ which is unfounded and total nonsense,” he tells The Foreigner in an email.

Gulowsen also points out that “Eni is obliged to maintain oil spill preparedness as part of their drilling operations at Goliat.”

“Regarding Eni and oil spill preparedness, the fact that they consider an oil spill response that does not work in fresh breeze as sufficient says a great deal about their level of expertise,” concludes Gulowsen.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Sept. 11 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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