Aberdeen MPs demand answers on Brae Alpha gas rupture and N. Sea safety

Marathon's Brae Alpha platform
Marathon’s Brae Alpha platform

AN Aberdeen MP has voiced his concern about “toothless” warning notices in the oil and gas industry after a gas line rupture in the North Sea shut down production on a rig.

Callum McCaig – who is also the SNP Energy spokesman in Westminster – wants operators to be properly held to account when health and safety improvement notices have been issued.

It follows the shutdown of the Brae Alpha platform on the 26 December 2015 after a gas line rupture on the platform. Production on the rig is yet to resume since the Boxing Day incident, despite reports that 73 workers are still on the rig. 

The same installation was issued an improvement notice in June of 2015 after a corroded piece of equipment caused a gas leak on the platform.

Callum McCaig, MP
Callum McCaig, MP

McCaig said: “73 people remain on an installation which experienced gas leaks twice last year- the latter of which seems to have had a more lasting impact on the platform. I am very concerned for those workers and their colleagues working across the North Sea as they may be experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety in their working environment.”

 In a letter to the Secretary of State for Energy, McCaig says he is echoing workers’ concerns that industry-wide cuts could undermine health and safety in the North Sea.

 “I have written to Amber Rudd and have asked her to join me in recognising any indication of offshore safety being put at risk must be immediately addressed.

“The oil and gas workforce deserves answers and reassurances of working in a safe environment. I have no doubt many of them will be concerned, as I am, to find out exactly what happened on the Brae Alpha platform.

 “The Government need to be serious about the regulatory bodies they are putting in place to keep watch over the oil and gas industry.

“The second reading of the Energy Bill will take place in the House of Commons on the 18 January 2016; many of us hope that it will progress quickly and allow the Oil and Gas Authority to fulfil its potential as soon as possible.

 Scottish Energy News: 29 Dec  2015 http://goo.gl/bJow4P

Brae Alpha gas leak sparks N. Sea emergency man-down and ignites union fears over ‘a Piper Alpha disaster’

“Hesitation does not suit safety, and anyone actually working offshore knows that. We cannot allow the oil and gas industry to be an environment where blame is passed. All parties involved in this business must take responsibility for the part they play in ensuring the safety of the workforce.”

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Mark McDonald (Aberdeen Donside) is seeking urgent talks with industry chief Deirdre Michie of Oil and Gas UK following safety concerns expressed by a number of his constituents working offshore in the North Sea oil and gas sector

Workers have contacted McDonald highlighting the pressures faced in terms of backfilling positions for which they are not fully qualified. Although it is not fully understood how widespread such practices are, there are fears that the North Sea’ enviable record on safety might be compromised in an effort to reduce costs. 

The SNP MSP has written to Oil and Gas UK, as the representative organisation for the UK Offshore Oil and Gas industry, asking what engagement they are undertaking with companies to ensure that an industry drive to improve efficiency does not diminish the safety culture offshore.

McDonald said: “There can be no doubt that there are significant pressures facing the oil and gas industry at present – and the effect can be seen day to day in the north east of Scotland. On this basis, the drive to reduce costs in order to maintain viability of investments is in many respects understandable. 

“But there are genuine concerns that the first-rate safety culture in the North Sea which emerged from the aftermath of Piper Alpha could be at risk as a result of cost-cutting measures. 

“We cannot afford to let standards slip in terms of safety, because the consequences can be devastating – as this industry has learnt the hard way. That’s why I am seeking assurances from Oil and Gas UK – making sure that concerns raised by those at the frontline of the workforce are taken on board and acted upon. 

“The message to oil and gas companies is a simple one – don’t cut corners on workers’ safety when it comes to cutting costs.”

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