Police investigate Statoil after leak at Mongstad
Pure luck prevented anybody from dying when explosive gas leaked out at Mongstad. The police confirm that they started investigating what went wrong that fateful day in 2016.
– The conclusion from Statoil’s own report indicates that this could have ended badly. Therefore we have to investigate, says lawyer for the police, Ole Bjørn Mevatne.
He is the officer in charge following the hydrogen leak at Mongstad on October 25, 2016.
Explosive gas was released from an open valve at a petrol system at Norway’s largest oil refinery. Statoil’s audit report concluded that the leak had probably ended in deaths if the flammable hydrogen gas had been ignited. A simple spark from a pipe falling to the ground would have been enough.
Potential violation of law
The audit report made by the Petroleum Safety Authority pointed to serious breaches of safety. The matters were as grievous that they asked the police to scrutinize, says investigator at the local police, Marianne Kalnes.
The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority has asked the police to investigate. In their audit report, four discrepancies has been found that they consider as criminal offenses, says police officer Kalnes.
It is the company Statoil Mongstad which is under investigation, not any individuals. They have status as suspect in the case. Nobody has been charged.
– The criminal code will probably not be applied, but there is a breach of the regulations for land facilities, she says.
Kalnes can not comment on any penal reaction before the investigation has been completed, but says that company fines are the norm
Statoil confirms that they are under investigation.
– We do not comment on the police investigation, but note that the incident is being investigated. We collaborate with the police and assist them, says Press Officer in Statoil, Elin Isaksen.
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway’s report after the incident concluded that corrosion caused the leak. The facility was not properly maintained, and the risk assessment before start-up was inadequate.
In October 2017 there was a another leak at the Mongstad refinery, then involving the highly flammable substance naphtha
This leak also caused by corrosion. The case has been investigated, as the police believe that the causes of both leaks are likely to be the same. Statoil’s internal report, which Sysla has gained insight to, indicates that economy and lack of resources were the root causes of the poor maintenance, even though Statoil make billions every year.
– We conducted the review to learn from the incident and see what actions we could take. The report revealed that we underestimated the challenges of corrosion, and therefore did not understand the risk, which led to wrong priorities. We Immediately strengthened the maintenance team at the plant, and we now has a comprehensive program at Mongstad and other facilities as a result of the report, says Isaksen.
– The police see the 2016 event in conjunction with the one in 2017, and suspects that poor maintenance may be the cause of both of them. How does that rhyme with the escalation in maintenance that you mention?
– The police decide how they review the two incidents. We are keen to fix the challenges relating to corrosion. Maintenance has been increased, but that takes time. The plant is operational every day, and we need to ensure safe and secure daily operation and to carry out maintenance tasks at the same time.
– Is it safe to work at Mongstad?
– Yes. Mongstad is a safe place to work.
Through the investigation, the police conducted ten to twelve interogations . There are presently two interrogations left to be held.
© Sysla.no / Norway Today