May 23, 2011 / 4:07 PM / 8 years ago

Shell oil well incident led to risk of spill -Norway

* December incident had potential for major accident -Norway

* Shell says it will apply order and use lessons for future

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO, May 23 (Reuters) - Norway’s oil safety watchdog criticised Royal Dutch Shell on Monday for an oil well incident it said had the potential for a major accident and could have caused an oil leak.

The incident took place last December at the Draugen platform in the Norwegian Sea when engineers attempted to replace a piece of equipment in the well.

Shell was the operator and oilfield services firm Seawell the contractor during the operation, which involved replacing a gas lift valve.

During the procedure, a separate piece of equipment got stuck, leaving only one of the two barriers in the well necessary to prevent an oil spill.

“The incident involved major accident potential in a situation with only one remaining barrier against hydrocarbon outflow from the well,” Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority said in a statement, adding that no one was injured.

Draugen produces around 46,000 barrels of oil per day, according to figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. If the last barrier in the well had failed, it could have caused an oil spill to the sea surface.

The watchdog ordered Shell to revise its well procedures at the platform. It said the firm had breached several regulations and had inadequate management, risk assessment, well barriers, well controls and daily reporting of drilling and well activities.

Shell said it would comply with the order from the oil safety watchdog. “(We will) use any learnings to avoid similar incidents in future,” said a Shell spokesman.

The incident at Draugen was not the only near-accident off Norway in 2010.

The oil safety watchdog said in November that “only luck” prevented a well incident at Statoil’s Gullfaks platform from becoming a major accident.

Shell has a 26-percent stake in Draugen, together with BP, which has 18 percent, Chevron which has 8 percent and Norwegian state-owned firm Petoro, which has the remaining 48 percent. (Editing by Anthony Barker)

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