Safety breaches aboard oil drilling ships

  • 13/04/2015

The number of dangerous incidents in the petroleum industry is increasing, including fires and serious near-misses.

One incident includes Texan oil giant Anadarko losing a seven-tonne platform from a vessel off the coast of Canterbury.

Anadarko's drilling ship, the Noble Bob Douglas, was the subject of protests last summer as it scoured New Zealand waters for oil.

Details of a serious safety incident that happened on board can now be revealed. 

Inside the ship is an area called a moon pool, where the drill goes into the sea. Last March a seven-tonne part of the rig fell to the ocean floor after someone pushed a lever the wrong way.

The platform was found with an unmanned submarine, and then lifted to the surface.

The details have been revealed in a list of dangerous incidents obtained under the Official Information Act.

"It's pretty astounding. At the same time the Government was reassuring Kiwis last summer that everything was going smoothly as they drilled some of the deepest wells in our waters, here they were dropping crucial oil equipment to the bottom of the sea," says Green Party MP Gareth Hughes.

What the Government calls "dangerous petroleum occurrences" are increasing across the entire oil and gas sector. In 2013 there were 54 serious incidents, which increased last year to 61.

Mr Hughes says the trends are heading in the wrong direction.

Thirty-six of the incidents were classified as being damage to or failure of critical safety equipment, while seven were classified as fires or explosions.

The Government is hoping for a big expansion of oil and gas exploration in the coming years and has sold that to the public by saying New Zealand has world-leading safety standards.

But critics argue the figures prove otherwise, and it's only a matter of time until one near-miss turns into a major accident.

3 News

source: newshub archive