Caspian Energy Journal Caspian European Club
Thursday, 21 September 2017 15:45

What has SOCAR undertaken to avoid force-majeure situations in the Caspian Sea? Featured

Search of all oilmen missing as a result of the fall of the part pier at the oil-collection point of Sangachal-Khara-Zira-Duvanny field ended late in August. It bears reminding that on December 15, at around 05:00am, a strong wind blew part of the 150m long pier at the oil-gathering point #3 of N.Narimanov OGPD operated by Azneft PU in the Caspian Sea. The staff, created in the National Vessel Traffic Center of the State Maritime Administration in accordance with the Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s decree (dated December 16, 2016) “On measures due to the accident occurred at the oil-gathering point of SOCAR Azneft PU” told APA about it. The staff includes representatives from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, State Border Service, State Maritime Administration, SOCAR and Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC.

It has been the second tragic accident occurred over the last 2 years, the fire at Gunashli field occurred on December 4, 2015. A strong wave washed the box with oilmen on board at Neft Dashlari. 33 men died. One man died because of the fall of the crane on November 21, 2016. One of the workers of the drilling contractor of the Deepwater Gunashli platform, operating at Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli block of fields, went missing on November 8. 

The accident seemed to be settled with this mournful news. The bodies of all oilmen were buried. But what is going to happen next? The winter is coming again and is SOCAR ready for the adverse weather conditions? Which technological innovations have been introduced? Which engineering changes have been made in the structures of platforms to ensure efficient rescue operations in case of occurrence of the force-majeure situations?  Are oilmen supplied with quality wet suits, certified rescue boats? Which additional safety measures have been undertaken to terminate possible oil spill? What spells a real death to the whole live creatures in the Caspian as it is an enclosed water body?  Finally, how many press conference has the Company held to inform the community about its future plans and actions?

Noteworthy are also military training exercises held by almost all Caspian states throughout a summer. Besides, military officers paid goodwill mutual visits to the ports of the Caspian states. However, intensification of the Caspian oil-gas projects almost in all the sectors, tells first of all about the manmade disasters risks and the entire ecosystem of the water body depends on the level of readiness for their termination, given the latest events happened in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea. Due to this Caspian Energy applied with questions to the companies-operators of upstream projects in the Caspian – SOCAR, KazMunayGas, LUKoil, BP, Total, Ministries of Emergency Situations of the Caspian countries, but answers to all our questions came only from the Chairman of the Committee for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan Vladimir Bekker and the head of the Total office in Azerbaijan Denis Lemarchal.

Based upon the ongoing accidents and information from SOCAR, specifically its absence, the Company undertakes preventive safety measures during the deterioration of weather conditions as it was on April 24 and 25, 2017 when having a speed of wind reaching 34m per second in the open sea (the wave height reached 3-5m, sometimes 5-7m) SOCAR Azneft PU sent a telephone message to all sites of the offshore oil-gas departments about the weather conditions and performed an evacuation of people doing unimportant job. Altogether 204 people were evacuated from different sites. Depending on weather conditions, pier and bridge sites were closed.

During the next accident fixed on May 11, a gas flow to the surface occurred on the 319th well of the platform #7 operated by May 28th OGPD. After prevention of the gas emission around the well, a gradually increasing abnormal flow of water and gas bubbles were seen around the well. “SOCAR President who was at accident site gave an order about full evacuation of employees who were on the well. Their lives were not in danger. All drilling operations were stopped on the well to minimize the accident risks. Together with the operative group of experts, the management of the company was at the accident site and controlled the situation from the neighbor wells and duty ships”, the information of SOCAR said. 

In June the oilmen got injured when the boat with oilmen on board lost control and hit against one of the jackets of the site #34. The press service of the company reported that 5 out of 7 people who were on board got different injuries. They all were put into the hospital. SOCAR workers were holding seismic survey operations at N.Narimanov OGPD.

In the meantime, as we wrote earlier, the statistics of the tragic accidents and man-made disasters happened alone in SOCAR over the last year exceeds the global statistics of offshore oil-gas production, which tells about 4 similar catastrophes throughout the whole history – two in the North Sea – national sectors of Great Britain and Norway, one in the Arctic latitudes of Russia and the last one which happened 7 years ago in the gulf of Mexico, USA. 

This problem became of global importance also after the accident of the Deepwater Horizon platform at Macondo field which occurred in April 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 1,500m. The accident took the lives of 11 oilmen and became the biggest man-caused catastrophe in the US history as 5 mln barrels of oil flew into the ocean. The well on the field was plugged only 4 months later by drilling two relief wells and injection of the special cement mixture into the holes of these wells. All this time, to the credit of the company bp-the main culprit of the accident, all the underwater works were broadcast online on the air of a number of American TV channels, and the liquidation of the consequences turned into a national operation to save all living beings. The federal court of the New Orleans found BP in 2013 the main party bearing responsibility for the accident. Though, it imposed half of the damage on contractors - Halliburton and Transocean.  7 years have passed since the accident, but bp is still paying multibillion fines annually. The companies have changed the concept of drilling and deep-sea development. The scope of deepwater drilling was broadly limited. Additional safety measures made upstream projects inefficient in the Arctic latitudes.

An accident at Alexander L. Kielland (1980) platform, the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The accident started with one of the bracings failing due to fatigue, thereby causing a succession of failures of all bracings attached to this leg. The platform turned upside down in 20 minutes. Possible reason: the fatigue of the facility. Only 89 crew members were saved out of 212 people.

Catastrophe at Piper Alpha (1988 г.) platform, British sector of the North Sea. The complex gas production platform was fully destroyed as a result of the natural gas explosion which caused further fire.167 people died. There were 232 people on the platform when the accident occurred. The response to these catastrophes was an improvement of the safety system “8 security barriers system”.

After the accident at Exxon Valdez tanker which happened in 1989, only the launch of double-bottomed tankers was commenced. For instance, since 90s only the double-bottomed tankers have a right to cross the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.  

Have the similar measures been taken by SOCAR in the Caspian?...

 In general, what shall be the international extent of responsibility for a committer of a possible force majeure situation, if it happens again in any sector of the Caspian Sea? Perhaps the use of international experience of foreign majors, the active involvement of international experts, scientists of the Caspian littoral states, the establishment of a system for predicting the impact of various natural disasters, for example, climate change impact on the Caspian ecosystem, broader information coverage of ongoing upstream operations, will help to avoid or minimize the risks of force majeure situations in the Caspian, after all the Caspian Sea is the sea, which still unites first of all risks and problems.

P.S   Caspian Energy applies to the Minister of Emergency Situation of Azerbaijan Kamaleddin Heydarov, Minister of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense Affairs, Emergency Situations and Termination of Consequences of Calamities Vladimir Puchkov, President of LUKoil Vagit Alekperov, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdulayyev, President of BP Azerbaijan Gary Jones, President of KazMunayGas Sauat Mynbayev with a request to answer the questions of the editorial office.





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