Regulation

“Burning throat, nausea, headaches: the effect on my family from a smell at Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site”

km8-from-km-claire-head1.jpg

Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site, photographed from Claire Head’s garden, 600m away

As Third Energy prepares to frack a well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, a villager describes what happened last week when her family was affected by a smell from the site. DrillOrDrop asked Third Energy about the incident. You can read it’s statement at the end of this post.

Hi my name’s Claire Head. I’m 44, a mum of two, who lives at Kirby Misperton.

On Tuesday last week, a very strong egg smell entered the village. It came in our house. We live 600 metres or so from the well.

My son Liam (below right), who is 11, was already off school. We started experiencing a headache and burning in our throats so I called the Environment Agency to report the smell and symptoms.

I telephoned Third Energy to find out what happened, as it was from their site.

I spoke to the site manager from Third Energy. He told me they were cleaning tanks and maybe some oil was left in. He said I should shut my windows and it would go in a few hours.

I got no apology at all.

I was in tears and terrified because I had my son with me. We felt nausea, light-headedness but the burning throat was the worst. You could taste it in your mouth. My husband came home and straightaway he started feeling unwell with burning throat, nausea and headache. His work colleague got a headache and nausea too.

My parents also came to the house and felt unwell. The smell was so strong in our house. It was coming in through the air vents.

I telephoned my GP, who said we should go to hospital if it got worse. The Environment Agency rang me back to say someone was going to the Third Energy site.

On Wednesday I still felt unwell so I went to hospital where my blood pressure and heart rate were up and fast. I lost my voice because my throat felt burnt. I was observed for about four to five hours and then sent home.

On Wednesday, I telephoned the Environment Agency to see what had happened. I was told that there was a slight spike in hydrogen sulphide but they didn’t think that would cause my symptoms.

The Environment Agency said Third Energy had told two stories. One was about cleaning the tanks. The other was about cleaning the well. But they were only using fresh water.

The Environment Agency said they were going back to Third Energy on Friday to inspect and look around.

I got passed on to Public Health England who spoke to me on Thursday and they have spoken to my GP. My GP told me hydrogen sulphide causes irritation of the lungs. I’m an asthmatic so I’m more vulnerable.

The GP said hydrogen sulphide causes headache, nausea and sore throat yet the Environment Agency seemed to dismiss it, claiming it was only a small spike.

The smell was smelt two miles from the village. A number of villagers complained to the Environment Agency.

KM8 from KM Claire Head2

Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, photographed from Claire Head’s back garden, 600m away

On Friday I had to go back to my GP for a check-up. At 2 50pm we passed a convoy of police escorting a Third Energy vehicle with a tank in the back saying portable water. Me and my dad both thought ‘That’s odd. A very big coincidence that the Environment Agency were at Third Energy for a site check. Was there something to hide in that tank? Very odd to have a police escort.’

Since I inhaled the fumes on Tuesday my health has been iffy. I’ve got a chest infection. I’ve spoken to neighbours who also felt sick and had symptoms. I’ve no doubt something happened on Tuesday.

Third Energy definitely used chemicals or something to cause the smell in the village. You don’t get that smell when you are using clean water, as Third Energy claim.

They said the smell was only on site. How would they know that? They never left the site.

It was told me the workers all felt fine and didn’t wear masks. I said ‘what rubbish’.

Kirby Misperton has now had four gas incidents from that well. The last one, sour gas, was March this year.

We moved into our house in 2006 and in 2007 there was a gas incident from the well. The smell came into the village. We all were out of our houses. We felt sick. The fire service came out and shut the road. I went to stay at my mum’s because the kids were tiny and I was scared to go back into the house. We all got a letter days later saying there was a natural release but because it was foggy it stayed low and we could smell it.

This is why we don’t want fracking and why we don’t trust Third Energy.

We also have no evacuation plan in the village. Third energy say it’s not their job. It’s for the fire service. So, if there’s a gas release no one would know as there’s no evacuation plan.

This was asked at the village meeting and it was passed to the Environment Agency who passed the buck.

Third Energy statement

DrillOrDrop invited Third Energy to comment on this account. The company sent this statement:

“We have been asked to provide further information on an odour reported as coming from the KMA well site on 17 October. Third Energy can confirm that the internal cleaning of water storage tanks with fresh water caused a low level of odour on site. There were no chemicals involved in this exercise.

“About fifteen people were working on the site at the time, including those involved in flushing the tanks, and none of them reported any adverse symptoms. We can clearly state that there were no health and safety issues on site and no leak of any gas.

“A local resident contacted Third Energy to say that they had noticed a smell in the village and wanted to know what might have caused it. As required, this odour complaint was reported to both Ryedale District Council and the Environment Agency.

“The Environment Agency confirmed that it was satisfied with the procedures taken and that no further action was required.”

24/10 Edited to remove a name

 

71 replies »

  1. Taken at face value, this sounds like the classic symptoms of low-level exposure to toxic hydrogen sulphide H2S. Robin

    • God help these villagers if they experience a higher level exposure to toxic hydrogen sulphide H2S then.

      This is a shocking, contemptuos way to treat people.

  2. Sounds remarkably similar to events at Horley near Gatwick. And with the same outcome. Dismissed by both the industry and government agency. The claimed world class gold standards mean that nothing will ever go wrong, officially, even when it does. It’s quite possible that those reporting the event will next be accused of inventing it, or exaggerating it. I suggest that this ‘event’ adds more weight to the sensible decision made by the Scottish government. (I await personal abuse from the pro frackers for my comments.)

    • That sounds more serious than low level H2S to me, I used to supervise large scale underground storage tank cleaning and removal abroad and the precautions taken there were severe and the sulphur dioxide and other highly volatile toxins including benzene fumes were and are highly dangerous.
      If entry to the tank was required, or even touching it, certified hydrocarbon proofed hazmat and breathing gear would be required and downwind exclusion zones and a time period for forced venting with instrument monitoring. The public and fire services should have been notified under standard hazard warning procedures.

      There is no way on this earth that no protective breathing gear was used, that would be against every regulation in a couple of very thick manuals, I used to carry them around in the truck in case there was a “disagreement”.
      If no breathing gear and presumably no hydrocarbon proofed and certified hazmat suites were used that site should be immediately closed down and an official investigation implemented forthwith.
      What the hell are Third Energy, the EA and the PHE playing at? Who is the HSE manager on the site?

      • Ps, that nonsense about only clean water being used is irrelevant because as soon as it touches the inside of the walls of the tank it ceases to be clean water and should be treated as a hazardous chemical waste.

        • PPS rotten eggs is the mercaptan smell, that is an additive to gas, not to an oil tank.
          It does not add up, something appears to be more than a bad smell about this.

          • Phil C

            Some Wells in the North of England do contain naturally occurring Mercaptans.

            But I agree, something about this just does not add up (see my post below)

            • Thanks injuneer, yes there are naturally occurring mercaptans, but one could only wonder why no staff reported the smell or suffered ill effects?
              Strange as you say, it doesn’t add up.

          • A previous incident at KM8 was reportedly from mercaptans. I initially assumed these were being added to the gas, but it turned out that various impurities, including mercaptans, were actually being removed from the gas. The odours affecting the village were reportedly from the mercaptans removed from the gas that had been released during routine maintenance (presumably someone removing the collected impurities).

        • Phil C – you are correct about how the water should be treated afterwards, but I suspect the point that they were making was that no chemicals were used in the actual tank cleaning.

      • Hi Phil C

        I’ve been involved in drilling Wells in H2S areas several times, and yes, there is no way they just opened this up without taking any precautions.

        If really they thought H2S was present, then at the very least, they would have had written procedures in place, not only approved by their own internal HSE, but by a 3rd party inspector and the HSE (not necessarily the EA – this would come under the HSE).

        The procedure would have involved a pre-job risk assessment, Job Safety Analysis and pre-job safety meeting. Confined space and hazardous material work permits would have been required to have been prepared and signed off by the person in charge. Portable gas detectors would have been used to monitor the gas levels (likely both H2S and CO) and the workers (two for safety) would have had full PPE (including SCBA gear and a safety line) on. There would also have been a fully kitted up safety standby crew who would have been in radio communication with the workers at all times while the work was being carried out.

        Now, the fact that there was no downwind exclusion zone, and the public and fire / police were not informed leads me to believe that it wasn’t H2S, but Mercaptans that caused the smell.

        As you know, Mercaptans are added to the UK gas supply for leak detection purposes, purely because it is so smelly, but otherwise harmless under normal circumstances.

        In which case, Third Energy would have been prudent to advise the local authorities and public that there might be a smell coming from the site because of the tank cleaning operations.

        But if it was Mercaptans, why did Mrs. Head suffer from those symptoms? Something doesn’t add up (see my post below).

        • Thanks for reminding me injuneer, yes we had an independent HSE consultant who had to approve and sign off everything before the paperwork was issued to start the prep procedures.
          That all must be a matter of public record? I will do some research I think.

      • Bugger, it’s late and I’m tired.

        Forgot to mention; A Third Energy Supervisor would be the person in charge (PIC) on site. The EA are obviously satisfied with what Third Energy have done (again points towards Mercaptans rather than H2S) and that this wouldn’t come under PHE – it would be in the HSE bailiwick.

  3. Let her get a lawyer! She won’t and she can’t. [Edited by moderator] I have not problem with your opinion [Ruth] but repeating eve the most insane allaegations will not turn out welll.

    Saying you want to save earth does not give carte blance to deliberately create a barrier to legitimate trade. Ineos have proved they have very big lawyers and the next high court hearing will create strong legal precedent. [Edited by moderator] You’re on shaky ground Ruth, I’d be careful of crossing the line [edited by moderator].

    • It seems to be a standard tactic. In Lancashire people are going around making accusations of ponds being polluted and vague things like ‘feeling ill’. When investigated there are no issues.
      A smidge of H2S does smell a bit and some may have been released, but as reported above no serious issues. As for any long term issues there are none. Any crop spraying in the area? That can produce H2S. https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/hydrogen_sulfide_fact.pdf

      I agree with Nick that reporting hearsay and rumour is questionable legally. The concentrations were of little concern on the site so what would be the concentrations a long way downwind? Minimal. They are monitoring for this. H2S is remarkably smelly at very low concentrations but only become dangerous at much higher concentrations where ironically you lose the sense of smell

      • The article is based on a first-hand account, rather than hearsay.

        The incident was taken seriously enough for a GP, a hospital, the Environment Agency and Public Health England to get involved. In Ruth’s judgement, it was therefore worth reporting.

    • May I suggest Nick, that after that little display, I would gently discourage a site visit to anywhere hazardous, like a o&g production platform?

  4. Hi Nick Grealy, good post!

    Just to better understand where you are coming from, I presume this is you?
    https://www.desmog.uk/2017/07/31/shale-gas-company-linked-cuadrilla-founder-wants-frack-west-london

    If so, then it leads here:
    http://www.londonlocalenergy.com, the website for London Local Energy Limited.
    In which you are named as Chief Executive.

    Which in turn leads here:
    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09261386/
    Role Director
    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09261386
    Company status: Dissolved on 29 November 2016

    Thanks, Robin

    • Robin, I can only assume you are fresh out of Uni using MSc after your name? I have a title that supersedes yours but won’t use it on here.

      • You’ve Got to be Kidding. My MSc was in 1972. Wellsite Geologist for Holme Chapel #1 wildcat for Quintana Inc, Anderson Oil, Trend Exploration near Burnley; Papers on paleoecology of walsortian reefs in Bowland Basin; research on Bowland Shales dysaerobic deepwater faunas (dendroid graptolites, blind trilobites etc.); author of Salthill Quarry Geology Trail for Nature Conservancy Council; geological exploration consultant to 20+ oil and gas companies in NW England and Irish Sea; geological adviser to BP for Eakring and Egmanton oilfields; adviser to the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum of Afghanistan; chapter on minex and oil exploration strategy in Northern Britain; paper defining the Tilt-Block Model that replaced the outdated Block-and-Basin model for onshore Lower Carboniferous; reports on 12 oil/gas prospects in NW England; report on surface escapes of methane in the Lancashire Coalfield… …and more besides, such as
        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320567816_FYLDE_BRIEFING_NOTE_1_-_The_Manchester_Marl_seal_and_the_freshwater_Eccles_Mudstone

      • GottaBKidding – congratulations on the consistency of your posts about fracking, in terms of quality and quantity. May I inquire why you are unwilling to reveal your title or qualifications?

  5. [Edited by moderator] What a lot of nonsense, there is a tannery along the road from us in a rural village, let her come up here and take a deep breath, probably knock her right out.
    Every illness going fwd will now be atributed to fracking no matter where you live. [Edited by moderator].

  6. This fits with countless descriptions of airborne noxious contaminants near fracking sites. The contempt shown for those who raise issues (as we see above) will continue and be stepped up as more and more problems are noticed. The locals will either be paid for silence or be made to look like crackpots. Standard practices I’m afraid.

    No heed will be paid by the industry regarding the need for continuous monitoring, it’s niot in their interests.

    • Hi Philip P,

      They haven’t started the Frac job yet, so it’s nothing to do with that.

      As has been noted in previous posts, there are continuous noise and air monitoring sensors on location – otherwise how would the EA be able to confirm a small spike in H2S?

  7. My partner and I were in the village on Tuesday and experienced the smell first hand.
    We walked from one end of the village to the other, and the smell hung heavily in the air all over the village. Third Energy are definately misrepresenting what ever happened – for one thing I noted their press release stated that someone had called them because they had ‘noticed’ a smell, as if to infer that it would have been equally possible to have ‘not noticed it. It was totally unmissable – no one with a nose could have not been aware of it.
    And this is the thing that sstruck me about it: it was a very windy day (this is not mentioned in the article). Through the preceeding night, there had been gusts of up to 40 or even 50 mph, and although they had subsided to a degree, there was still an unusually strong and steady wind blowing, in a SW direction, which would have made a pretty direct line from the well site to the village.
    And yet even with this strong wind blowing, the smell permeated the air quite heavily, for at least the hour we were in the village.

    And tThird Energy are saying they had just washed out some water storage tanks???
    Whatever the truth of the matter was, they have obviously considered it expedient to hide it rather than to reveal it to the public.

  8. Well, we know this has nothing to do with Frac’ing, because they hadn’t started yet.

    Something about this just doesn’t add up.

    Firstly, isn’t there a permanent presence of protesters at the KM site?

    If so, did they smell anything?

    Secondly, while at first glance, the symptoms appear to be consistent with low level H2S exposure, the only good thing about exposure to H2S is the body very rapidly converts it to Sulphates, which are then excreted in Urine.

    So for Mrs Head to have been exposed on Tuesday and still be suffering from symptoms on Friday isn’t really consistent with H2S exposure.

    Thirdly, Colin Gong mentions that there was a strong wind blowing on the Tuesday, but the smell was still present – unusual since H2S disperses very rapidly. At the wind speeds indicated and the distance from the Well (two miles), the concentration of the gas would have been much, much higher at the well location.

    Below is a table (taken from one of my Emergency Response Manuals for the last Well I drilled in an H2S environment) which lists the effects of exposure to H2S.

    Note that the figures with respect to ppm vs. effects will differ slightly depending upon the source (UK, USA or Canada), but are in the same general areas.

    On Exploration Wells that I have done, normal operations cease at +/- 10ppm and all operations cease at +/- 20ppm until the cause is investigated and corrective action taken (which can involve complete shut down until a specialist H2S services company and equipment have been mobilised, the Rig is fitted with a full cascade system and all rig crews have been trained for operating in an H2S environment).

    1 PPM – Can be smelled

    10 PPM – 8 hour Occupational Exposure Limit

    20 PPM – Ceiling Occupational Exposure Limit

    100 PPM
    – Loss of smell in 2 -15 minutes
    – May burn throat, cause headache and nausea

    200 PPM
    – Sense of smell lost rapidly
    – Burns eyes and throat

    500 PPM
    – Loss of reasoning and balance
    – Respiratory disturbances in 2 -15 minutes
    – Prompt resuscitation needed
    – Breathing will stop and death will result if not rescued promptly

    700 PPM
    – Immediate unconsciousness
    – Causes seizures, loss of control of bladder and bowel
    – Breathing will stop and death will result if not rescued promptly

    1,000 PPM
    – Causes immediate unconsciousness
    – Death or permanent brain damage will result unless rescued promptly

    What these levels means is that if it was H2S and strong enough to be smelled two miles away from the Well pad, then the level at and immediately around the pad itself would have been well into instantly unconscious levels – which obviously didn’t happen.

    If H2S levels of this order had been found during the drilling of the Well, then it would not have been put into production – UK Onshore legislation simply would not have allowed it due to the hazards of an H2S escape (a few years ago, a Chinese Well containing H2S blew out – it was in the middle of a village and killed an estimated 250 people).

    It is possible that the smell could have been caused by Mercaptans (CH4S or C2H6S).

    Mercaptans are added to North Sea gas for leak detection, because it can be smelled at concentrations as low as 10 parts per Billion and it is an extraordinarily revolting smell. Unlike H2S, it does not deaden the sense of smell and can cause the symptoms described.

    It does occur naturally in some Wells in the North of England. From memory the KM area is one of them, but I don’t know for certain.

    So it could have come from tank cleaning. I do know of one incident in the 1980’s after a Well test, where the test separator was opened up and found to still have a small amount of Mercaptan containing condensate remaining in it. Cue instant projectile vomiting on the well pad and complaints about the smell from 10 miles downwind. Like I said, a revolting smell.

    However, there have not been any reports of people being sick?

    But as I said at the start, something about all this just doesn’t add up.

    • Thanks injuneer, that takes me back to my decommissioning days, all useful information.
      Good points about the protection camp too, let’s see if they had any knowledge of the smell, they must be good “canaries” for onsite conditions? I hope they won’t be offended by that.
      Hmmm, canaries? I wonder if any local birds were affected? That would reveal a leak at least?
      Perhaps all the locals should keep canaries as a precaution?

    • Injuneer et al

      Yes, given the job description, the wind and the duration of smell, it does not add up.
      I lean towards a mercaptan issue as you do not need much to smell it, as I havepersonal experience of this. You would need an awful lotof H2S at that wind speed to cause an issue as described ( smell and symptoms ).

      Maybe more information from TE and EA will be forthcoming, but I doubt it.

      Re smells, if you google ‘J.G Pears sickening smell’ you can see how people react to rendering plant smell. That smell to me was mild boiled cauliflower, but to Mrs H it was sickening and required a sick bowl. Others went off the the doc. But that was low Easterly winds in summer ( they fitted an oxidiser unit and now have a poo burning power station in commission ).

      Hmmmmm

    • Watch, it will all come out too late, when workers there leave their positions, either due to just simple reasons or health reasons, there will be court case against the workers, due to them signing gaging orders which will have been part of their contracts before being employed by the Fracking company. watch this happen, it does not take a rocket scientist to say what I have said, for it will just be a duplicate of what happened in America, for this is what is happening just now, and the fracking company lawers are keeping the workers at bay from making claims, for the gagging orders they signed, to the proper safety equipment they have not used and so on.Wtch this happen before your eyes, what makes Britain any different from America.

    • FYI The gates of KMA where protectors gather during the day is to the SSW of the wellpad, so with a strong SW wind, unlikely to have been affected. The village is about half a mile NW and WNW so right in line with a SW wind. There is also a campsite with static caravans a few hundred yards NW. The protection camp is about 2 miles away WNW. Some are now camping close to the gates too.
      It certainly doesn’t engender trust with authorities when incidents are played down or denied repeatedly. Residents are by no means all anti fracking – some are quite pro. The majority will be understandably very sensitive to any changes in water or air quality. It’s important that they are encouraged to report all incidents (not pilloried or accused of false claims), otherwise how can the industry ever gain credibility? Any incident needs to be quickly, honestly and accurately reported and then clearly explained by means of hard evidence. If there is any weakness in, or lack of evidence at this highly monitored site, it will reflect exceedingly badly on the industry, govt and regulators. If an incident occurs at ANY well site due to a genuine accident, incompetence or even corner cutting, is it better for the industry to hide the facts and cover up, or to admit it, explain it and learn from the mistakes? If incidents become common place and directly affect nearby residents, the opposition will just grow and grow. We’re constantly promised gold standard regulation, but it means nothing without monitoring, policing and enforcement.

      • Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the explanation on the layout.

        Do we know if anyone in the protection camp smelled anything? Given the distance they may not, but it would be worth finding out.

        Is there anyone currently living in the static caravan site, and if so did they?

        Residents certainly have every right to be sensitive about changes to water or air quality, and yes, all incidents should be reported, investigated and the results made publicly available.

        However, there are several issues which the industry has to deal with;

        Firstly, there is a tendency for some to assign blame to the oil industry for any issue that is remotely close to a Well pad, or even seismic line. The classic example of this was the recent outcry over brown tap water in a village, which was blamed on vibroseis trucks operating three miles away. I’m willing to bet that when Ineos first heard this, their initial response was one of incredulity that anyone could possibly think that vibroseis trucks could have caused this. However, the oil industry was essentially pilloried in the press (and even by Dennis Skinner in the House of Commons) before anyone had a chance to do an investigation – which ultimately was found to be a digger bursting a water line and nothing to do with the oil industry at all – but the damage has already been done. And that’s a big problem in these days of social media and ‘we want answers now!”. It can take several days to gather data and perform a thorough investigation to find out what actually happened – by which time it’s way too late and the focus of people has moved elsewhere.

        Secondly, there is also a tendency by some to seize upon even the smallest transgression and blow it up out of all proportion to the size of the offence. The reality is that with the amount of planning & HSE regulations in place in the UK, it is virtually impossible for ANY industry (not just the oil industry) to not be in violation at some point. The big difference is the the oil industry is very much under the microscope, whereas other industries are not. For example, you don’t hear too much about the HSE problems in the Construction or Agriculture Industries, but between them they suffered 57 fatalities in the last year.

        Thirdly, it is very difficult to properly investigate a ‘hearsay’ accusation – especially if it comes out several days or even weeks/months/years later. For example, it is now claimed that a stream close to the Well pad for Balcome ran a ‘lurid green’ colour and that dead fish were present in it – now impossible to investigate.

        Fourthly, even when an incident is clearly explained with hard evidence, there is a very vocal minority who will simply ignore the evidence and continue to assign blame to who they want to. Using the ‘brown water’ story as an example, I’m pretty sure there are a number of people who are still convinced it was the fault of the vibroseis trucks. In this case, it’s also not helped by Dennis Skinner publicly stating he has no interest in meeting Ineos.

        Fifthly, the Oil Industry is often accused (even on here) of being ‘self-regulating’, whereas we are actually ‘self-reporting’. While this may be unsatisfactory to some, it is how ALL Industry in the UK works. Since the UK’s safety record is amongst the best in the world, I would say it works well – although no doubt others will not agree.

        Sixthly, the Oil Industry in the UK actually has a very robust reporting system for HSE incidents, not only to the HSE themselves, but also internally. If there is an incident, then a safety notice is issued to all Onshore and Offshore Operators detailing the incident, what happened, why it happened and what actions were taken to prevent it from happening again.

        O.K., that’s enough of the xxly….

        We also have a somewhat different outlook, in that an incident which does not result in injury is treated exactly the same way as one that does. For example, say a piece of metal (say, a bolt) falls from the Derrick onto the Rig Floor and misses a floorhand by 1m. That is treated no differently from if it had hit the floorhand and caused an injury, because it was only luck that it didn’t hit him. Operations would immediately cease and a ‘dropped object’ investigation carried out. An initial incident report would be sent out to the Head Offices of the Operator and Rig Contractor (normally within six hours), followed up by a final report within 48 hrs.

        Another example, incident statistics consistently show that the most dangerous part of our work is the journey to and from it – either from traffic accidents onshore or helicopter accidents offshore. All the larger Operators and Service Companies now have ‘drive right’ type monitoring systems on their vehicles. Offshore Helicopters carry so much safety gear, their payload capacity is around 2/3 of the same Helicopter operating outside the industry.

        We also look at the bigger picture. For example, did you know that helicopter flights in the North Sea are grounded if the sea state along their route exceeds a set criteria? Because if the Helicopter ditched in seas exceeding those criteria, it would be impossible to mount a rescue operation.

        Similarly, all Helicopter flights leaving from Aberdeen fly along the same flight path out into the North Sea and only turn towards their destination when some distance offshore (I forget how much – I think it’s about 75 miles) – a dedicated rescue vessel patrols this flight path 24/7.

        The use of wide area multilateration technology for Helicopter tracking was also developed and first implemented in the North Sea.

        For many years, there has also been an HSE ‘hotline’ (the number of which must be on display on any installation) to which anyone on a platform or rig can make an anonymous call to if they had any HSE concerns about the way that operations have been performed. It is not widely known, but as a result of anonymous tips, plus formal HSE investigations into their working practices, an Operator (from Overseas) was essentially forced to sell all their North Sea assets and leave the UKCS.

        I am very proud that the UK Offshore Industry (and by that I also include UK based Operators and Service Companies taking their working practices Overseas – which I have done on many occasions) has been a world leader in promoting HSE since the early 1990’s, when the Cullen Report into the Piper Alpha disaster finally allowed us to get rid of the legacy US working practices. The UK ‘Safety Case’ system is widely regarded as being ‘best in class’ – as evidenced by our safety record compared to other industries, or the oil industry in other Countries – and has been (or is being) adopted in many Countries throughout the World.

        After all, a Production Platform is a highly complex piece of kit with a large inventory of a highly volatile material under pressure. If it were onshore, the process plant would normally be spread out over about 10sq miles. And offshore, you can’t run…

        The oil companies are often accused of being defensive and not engaging with the public properly. Well, if you know that no matter what you say or do, some people are going to yell at you anyway, it’s easy to become defensive.

        One final thing to remember but which is not widely known, the UK Oil Industry is unique in the eyes of the Law. In the event of an HSE incident on an oil (or gas) installation, there is no presumption of innocence – we are guilty until proven innocent.

        • Injuneer
          The central N Sea is also covered by a dedicated SAR helicopter, operated by Babcock ( Bond ) in addition to the existing EERV cover.
          It’s on a 60 Million 5 year contract, and based in Aberdeen. It ensures the 2 hour Rescue and Recovery Standard Is maintained for helicopters in transit to Central N Sea Platforms … with the demise of the Miller Platform, on which it was based.

          • Hi Hewes62,

            Didn’t know that, thanks.

            It’s actually been a long time since I worked on the UKCS and most of that was in the SNS where we had the deep joy of mostly using the Westland 30 (aka the flying vibrator) and the Dauphin (aka the knee killing sweat box). Oh how my heart used to leap when I walked out and it was a Bell 212 or S-76 waiting there…..

            • Injuneer
              While we depart from the issues in hand re fracking …..

              Yes, Piper Alpha drove an upgrade of Rescue and Recovery Regs, which gave us better survival suits, rebreather, EERVs ( super rescue vessels ) and performance standards for rescue and recovery.
              Troubles with the Super Puma a few years ago highlighted further required improvements.
              Plus BP developed a high spec rescue helicopter to replace standby vessels. That project was thoroughly chewed around by the HSE and workforce, resulting in better stuff all round, and the retention of SBVs, now termed EERVs.

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