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Northern Endeavour told to halt production

Prohibition notice handed out due to corrosion issues on floater off Western Australia

Australia’s offshore safety regulator has issued a prohibition notice to Upstream Production Solutions (UPS) in relation to the Northern Endeavour floating production, storage and offloading vessel.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety & Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) issued the notice on Wednesday for non-compliances relating to corrosion issues at the FPSO which it believes could “lead to a major accident event”.

It added that such an event had the potential to result in multiple fatalities and environmental damage.

In the notice, a Nopsema inspector has prohibited UPS from carrying out production operations, with associated pressurised hydrocarbon inventory, at the Northern Endeavour.

The inspector claimed the FPSO was in a “degraded state” with corrosion at the facility leading to multiple failed structural elements resulting in dropped objects.

The inspector detailed in the notice that the identified structural defects caused by corrosion had the potential to lead to a structural failure under design load conditions.

The regulator warned this could lead to a potential oil spill and fire or physical trauma injuries, such as blunt force or penetrating trauma, to multiple personnel.

Nopsema has advised UPS to depressurise and eliminate hydrocarbon inventory on the topsides that could lead to a hydrocarbon loss of containment in the event of structural failure.

It also advised non-essential activities be halted and controlled personnel access should be implemented to areas identified by UPS as having a high risk of injury or a fatality, due to a potential dropped object.

In their report, the inspector also advised UPS to carry out a survey of all topsides structures where a failure could lead to a fatality or a major accident and rectify the defects to ensure that safety risks are “as low as reasonably practicable”.

The prohibition notice from Nopsema followed an incident on 1 July which involved a dropped object of sufficient height and weight to cause a fatality.

UPS operates and maintains the Northern Endeavor FPSO on behalf of Northern Oil & Gas Australia (Noga).

In a statement on Thursday, Noga confirmed the 1 July incident but added no personnel were in the vicinity of the dropped object and no personnel were harmed as a result of the incident.

"We will work with Upstream PS as operator, and Nopsema, to fully understand the regulator’s concerns and take the appropriate actions to resolve any issues,” a Noga spokesperson said.

Noga acquired a 100% interest in the Laminaria and Corallina oilfields from Woodside in 2016, as well as the Northern Endeavour.

Noga has upgraded the FPSO since its acquisition and claims it has 40 years of design life remaining, which is more than enough for the 15-20 years of life it foresees remaining of the Laminaria-Corallina field.

However, Nopsema has issued a number of safety notices in relation to the facility, with the regulator issuing a general direction in April for Noga to demonstrate its oil spill response capability and provide assurances it had the financial capacity to deal with incidents such as an oil spill.Last year it was reported Noga was issued an environmental improvement notice after Nopsema said the operator had contravened regulations relating to oil spill risk.

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