(Adds PSA quotes, details, background)
OSLO Oct 26 Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority
(PSA) said it asked Statoil on Wednesday to investigate
whether a number of recent incidents at the oil producer's
facilities might be related and linked to cost cuts.
In the last two weeks, a Statoil offshore platform caught
fire and another was shut after a gas leak. A drilling rig also
struggled to contain a well, while five people were injured at
an oil terminal and the country's biggest refinery was evacuated
over a leak.
Following the latest incident at the near 240,000 barrels
per day Mongstad refinery on Tuesday, PSA held an urgent meeting
with Statoil on Wednesday.
"The reason for the meeting was a number of incidents during
a couple of weeks, and our concern for that ... We know that
they had quite large changes in their organization regarding
cost cutting and efficiency," the watchdog's spokesman Oeyvind
"The question is whether there is a link between these
changes and the causes of these incidents," he added, speaking
after PSA's meeting with Statoil's head of development and
production in Norway, Arne Sigve Nylund.
A spokesman for Statoil said that the company had found no
evidence that cost cutting caused its recent problems, but it
would continue to look into the matter.
Statoil is slashing jobs, projects and investments to cope
with a sharp drop in the price of crude since mid-2014.
In February, it pledged to increase cost cutting by 50
percent to $2.5 billion on an annual basis from this year and
axe up to 19 percent of its workforce compared with the height
of the crude price boom.
Norway's two oil workers' unions have said the incidents
could be a sign that cost cutting in the industry is
"I have never experienced anything like this ... The number
of incidents and scope gives me a very bad gut feeling," Roy
Erling Furre, in charge of safety and health issues at the SAFE
union, said on Wednesday.
PSA warned in April that the risk of accidents in the
Norwegian oil industry had increased last year.
"As of today, we don't see anything that should indicate
that there is any link between these incidents, but we will
follow it further and approach the investigation with an open
mind," Statoil spokesman Morten Eek said.
PSA has not set a deadline for Statoil to report back. The
company said it would come back after completing its
"In all the improvements we carry out, safety is the first
priority," Eek said.
(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Susan Fenton)