Safety critical maintenance work to the UK’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure has a ‘growing backlog’ according to the industry body Oil & Gas UK.
In its annual report, Oil & Gas UK said the backlog had been an increasing trend since 2009.
However, figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), used to compile large parts of the report, showed that overall the industry is becoming safer.
The HSE figures showed that over the course of the year, the total number of hydrocarbon releases was 77, down from 89 the previous year, and the lowest on record.
Most importantly, the safety of the UK’s offshore workforce also seemed to be improving. The non-fatal injury rate showed a continued decrease, with the numbers far lower than that of onshore industries, like onshore construction, rail and manufacturing.
Sadly however, the last year included two fatalities. One fatality occurred on BP’s Unity platform and one on Taqa’s Harding platform.
In a statement, Oil & Gas UK’s Health, Safety and Employment Issues Director Rober Patterson said, “Industry, on the whole, is performing well across a range of safety criteria. However, ours is a major hazard sector where complacency has no place.”
Patterson added, “Our report did find a growing backlog of safety-critical maintenance offshore and this is an area that needs close attention.”
It’s well known that a large amount of critical maintenance was neglected by offshore oil and gas companies operating in the UKCS in the late 90s to early 2000s. The practice was particularly prevalent on unmanned platforms within the UK’s southern sector. This eventually led to the HSE stepping in, and risked many of the ‘Normally Unmanned Installations’ (NUIs) being permanently shut down.
Times have changed, Oil & Gas UK seems to have a grip on offshore operating companies, and the HSE is evermore vigilant as the UK’s ageing infrastructure well exceeds its life expectancy.
With the price of oil unlikely to have a significant change in the next 12 months, the backlog will surly grow, but hopefully not back to unsafe levels.