Elf manager claims Piper Bravo is safe

11-valve failure was `satisfactory’ says installation’s manager

The recent shutdown of Elf Exploration’s Piper Bravo platform resulted in the failure of 11 safety valves. The senior oil company employee on the platform said the failure was `satisfactory’.

The oil installation manager (OIM) on the North Sea platform made the comment at a meeting of the platform’s safety committee in late March. The minutes record that when asked if any shutdown or blowdown valves had failed during the exercise `the OIM stated that six shutdown valves and five blowdown valves are recorded as having failed, which is considered to be satisfactory’.

A spokeswoman for Elf said only six out of the 302 shutdown valves on the platform had failed, representing a 98% success rate and meeting the platform’s safety case.

The Health & Safety Executive said it had received no formal complaints.

The disclosure comes less than a month after a routine three-day visit by three inspectors from the HSE identified safety shortcomings on Piper Bravo – including missing firefighting equipment.

In a follow-up letter to Elf on 4 March, the inspector in charge wrote: `I was surprised to find these serious shortfalls from your planned maintenance programme. Matters similar to these have been brought to your attention following inspections in the past three years.’

The letter asked Elf to reply within 28 days advising what action had been taken to rectify the failings.

Elf said it had responded to the HSE on 4 April.

By Andrew Cavenagh