Increase in Minor Hydrocarbon Releases

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Hydrocarbon releases can have catastrophic results. 

After almost reaching the 50% target reduction set in 2010, the oil and gas industry reaffirmed its commitment in 2013 to further reduce the number of hydrocarbon releases (HCRs) by 50% in three years.  We can't achieve this target without learning from each other and sharing good practice.  This is why the Step Change Asset Integrity Steering Group (AISG) is encouraging the reporting of hydrocarbon releases to SADIE (Safety Alert Database and Information Exchange).  It is reassuring to see how positively operators have responded to this. 

The reports from last year have been analysed by the HSE.  The results showed that the number of significant and major hydrocarbon releases has decreased, however the number of minor releases reported has increased.  The Step Change HCR Prevention workgroup has been analysing the type of minor releases that are now being reported and believe the increase is in part due to an increased awareness of the issue through initiatives such as Joined-up Thinking. 

Susan Mackenzie, Director of HSE's Hazardous Installations Directorate, said: "It is clear that while HCR performance has improved significantly over the past decade, the rise in HCRs in 2013/2014, following a reduction in the previous four years, is concerning.  As we know, HCRs are a primary precursor to fire and explosion offshore. 

"Late last year I asked the offshore industry to review its current approach to the prevention of HCRs in the light of this worrying reversal of the industry's improving record."

Susan continued by saying: "While it is encouraging to see a reduction in significant and major HCRs, the overall increase in HCRs remains a serious concern.  Industry needs to address these increases and investigate common causes or underlying issues.  I'd hope these latest statistics act as a wake-up call to industry and I expect to see a reduction in the coming year."

Every HCR causation report shared should be considered a learning opportunity for the industry.  We have an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the sharing of best practice and to learn from experience to help make our workplace safer.