An audit conducted by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) regarding major accidents and electrical installations at Hammerfest LNG turned up ‘serious breaches’ to regulations relating to the handling of previously identified nonconformities at the plant
PSA’s audit was conducted 21 to 24 September, the week prior to a fire that caused extensive damage to Europe’s largest LNG export facility. Equinor, the terminal’s operator, reported that the fire on 28 September damaged the Melkøya facility’s air intake on one of the plant’s five power turbines, while large amounts of seawater used to extinguish the blaze damaged electrical equipment, cables and other auxiliary systems in the plant. The damage is expected to keep the facility shut for at least 12 months.
After the fire, plant director Andreas Sandvik estimated it would take until 1 October 2021 to get Hammerfest LNG back into production.
PSA was conducting the audit to check compliance with relevant regulations, examining how major accidents, electrical safety and Covid-19 were being addressed by Equinor.
A further goal of the audit was to follow up on a 2019 major accident audit by the Norwegian Industrial Safety and Security Organisation, and the 2017 audit of electrical installations at Hammerfest LNG. Nonconformities identified in that audit concerned door monitoring in electrical distribution substations, emergency lighting and the handling of nonconformities themselves. Further, improvements were sought on electrical installations – technical conditions and routines for temporary equipment.
Equinor lacked a systematic approach to utilising and implementing the handling of nonconformities – both those identified earlier by the PSA and the company itself, according to the PSA. It found in part that several nonconformities earlier noted by the PSA had not been corrected or followed up on by Equinor. PSA said the “impression was that Equinor is not adequately handling or compensating for identified weaknesses/nonconformities while awaiting a permanent improvement.”
The 2017 audit showed that Equinor faces capacity challenges in terms of personnel qualified to carry out maintenance assignments on electrical installations. Following this audit, Equinor had initiated measures to overcome these challenges.
However, those same personnel challenges appear in the most recent audit, among the support (engineering) department in the electrical and instrumentation disciplines, according to the PSA.
PSA’s 2020 audit identified five nonconformities and two conditions categorised as improvement points.
Once again Equinor’s handling of nonconformities was identified, with Equinor failing to correct and follow-up on conditions previously identified by the PSA as well as ones identified by the company itself.
Deficiencies were found in Equinor’s management of contributors to major accident risk at the plant; the responsible party lacked sufficient staffing and expertise in the technical department for the electrical and instrumentation disciplines; it noted the deficient design of the emergency lighting system; and deficiencies were found in the oversight and handling of technical conditions in the field.
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