Ekofisk was the first commercial petroleum discovery on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). Found in 1969, it came on stream as early as 1971.
This area lies at the southern end of Norway’s North Sea sector, about 280 kilometres south-west of Stavanger, and has been developed with a central complex and several satellite fields.
Working on Ekofisk has always been and remains very unlike a job on land. The most eye-catching difference is the need to fly. A helicopter flight takes 90-120 minutes, depending on weather.
While at work, personnel are completely divorced from life on land and experience a total physical separation from “normal” society.
People on Ekofisk are part of a small but complex community where platform operation is the common denominator. Most workers do fixed tours of duty – usually two weeks on and three-four off.
Offshore jobs were originally held exclusively by men. The first women only arrived in 1978, either as nurses or as catering personnel.
But Ekofisk remains a male-dominated arena, where women are in a clear minority at less than 10 per cent of the workforce. Catering has the largest proportion of females – just under 50 per cent. The share is significantly below 10 per cent in production and operation.
Male and female jobs
Although the bulk of the women now on Ekofisk still have jobs in the service sector, they are represented across all occupational sectors – platform management, drilling, production and operation.
The various types of work differ in their standing and prestige among those employed on the field and in the rest of society.
Social anthropologist Jorun Solheim believes that every kind of work has a gender dimension.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solheim, Jorun and Ellingsæter, Anne Lise, Den usynlige hånd. Kjønnsmakt og moderne arbeidsliv, 2003, Oslo. By this, she means that society has generalised perceptions of “male” and “female” jobs.
A male job often relates to base or core functions in a workplace, with direct participation in what is being produced, while female work is defined as social and hygienic.
This means that a woman working in base functions on a platform, such as production, holds a “male” position and is perceived in terms of her job rather than her gender.
She is therefore judged differently from women engaged in more typically female work. So women in “male” jobs acquire a different standing both among her colleagues and in society at large from female workers in service trades. A women employed in the core area of a company works alongside men and is accepted by them. Solheim puts it this way:
The central issue is how the work itself is ‘genderised’. Particular work assignments and areas of expertise will be viewed as male or female respectively.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solheim, Jorun and Ellingsæter, Anne Lise, Den usynlige hånd. Kjønnsmakt og moderne arbeidsliv, Oslo, 2003.
In other words, the job has a gender dimension. The individual worker is defined by the work he or she does – by whether it has a male or female character – and not by their actual gender. A man’s job has more standing and prestige than a woman’s.
So the question is whether the job done by a woman on Ekofisk determines how she is assessed, or whether gender in itself is decisive for how she is regarded and her place in the hierarchy. How are these women viewed by their female and male colleagues?
Job standing and perception of women
As mentioned above, most people on Ekofisk work defined tours – two weeks offshore and three-four weeks at home. But differences exist. Working conditions and tour arrangements vary between operator employees and contractor/service company personnel.
Those employed by the operator – in this case ConocoPhillips, formerly Phillips Petroleum Company – have the most stable jobs. Their tours are fixed and they travel offshore with the same people every time.
Service company employees, on the other hand, will complete an assignment on one platform and then move to a different facility. So they will not be on the same installation for a long period.
Their position is also to some extent unstable. The duration of their work depends on a specific contract between operator and contractor. This may run over several years and can either be extended on expiry or transferred to another contractor with new personnel and rules.
Whether they are operator or contractor personnel can influence people’s view of the work and not least the employee’s own perception of their job and the associated social life. The point here is that operator employees are considered to have the most important jobs offshore and can thereby feel themselves to be superior to others.
Education represents another important factor in the way a worker is regarded. Those with the highest qualifications often have the same educational attainment as their own managers, and thereby hold a kind of intermediate position between colleagues offshore and the land organisation.
Women in jobs which call for a high level of education avoid having to “compete” with the men in an arena where females have traditionally done less well because they lack male strength.
People with higher education and offshore experience are also qualified for a range of positions in the company, from production engineer to the partner relations department, for example. In other words, advanced technical qualifications, work in the core areas and permanent employment with the operator confer more standing than an unskilled temporary position or a job with a contractor/service company.
A skilled female technician employed by the operator has a position which awards prestige. She works in her employer’s core area and is a permanently employee.
Offshore nurses have a professional qualification and often additional training in a specialist field. They are highly educated and permanently employed by the operator. And, even though the same job on land is perceived as a female occupation, it has traditionally been a male preserve offshore.
That could partly reflect an inheritance from shipping. The first mate on a ship – a man – is often responsible for dealing with injuries. This means that the nursing function offshore has been redefined from a caring role to an expertise-based position and enjoys high standing. On the other hand, a women employed in drilling does not work for the operator but for a service company. In theory, that should indicate the job is less prestigious.
But drilling falls within the platform’s core area – no wells, no production. These workers make “first contact” with the oil or gas before it is tamed. A drilling job has a mythic quality, since it involves a certain level of risk, a level of expertise and a portion of good luck. This has traditionally been regarded as a job for the tough “lads”, and a woman who succeeds in this environment enjoys great respect. Even if she is employed by a service company, she will have high standing because of its “manly” character.
As contractors, the catering companies cover two occupational groups – the skilled cook and the unskilled cleaner. The latter has a service job traditionally associated with women, which has a female character in itself. Many cleaning personnel begin as temporary replacements before securing permanent employment, and few opportunities are available for career advancement. The work done is taken for granted and is not noticed until it has not been carried out. This provides an example of a job which confers low standing.
The platform’s spatial organisation works differently for women and men. Since the offshore environment is male dominated, arenas will exist where just men are present. But women-only places are seldom found.
Females are more or less always in mixed company and in a minority. A women thereby has few or no locations on a platform where she can simply be herself, without playing a part.
Social anthropologist Erving Goffman talks about people’s need for a “backstage” area. He divides social life into this and “frontstage”, or between private and public spheres.REMOVE]Fotnote: Goffman, Erving; Vårt rollespill til daglig: en studie i hverdagslivets dramatikk. Oslo 1992.
When backstage, no demands about behaviour are made and people can relax more. Frontstage is a place where they must think through and prepare their performance.
So men do not have to reflect how they appear to women when only males are present. Using Goffman’s terms, we can say that women have few backstage areas and men have more of them. This means that females must be more conscious of their performance for more of the time they spend offshore than is necessary for males.
Process engineers and nurses are examples of solo players. They will not “make a botch” of the way men in corresponding roles and at other times have done the job.
Women often lack the natural authority men possess, but can compensate for this by utilising spatial relationships to legitimise their organisational status.
An example of such conscious use of these conditions is the female offshore installation manager (OIM) who deliberately occupies the manager’s chair because those who enter her office are used to connecting it with the OIM. She wants to be associated with this role and uses spatial relationships to emphasise this.
Even though women do not control the physical or social space directly, they nevertheless exert an influence on how space is allocated and utilised.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ardener, Shirley Ground Rules and Social Maps for Women: An Introduction. Women and space : ground rules and social Oxford 1993
According to both oral and written sources, sales of after-shave in platform shops increased dramatically when women began working offshore.
Women have also exerted some influence on the design and utilisation of tools and other equipment. The Karmøy winch was developed because a female operator maintained that it must be possible to get equipment which made it easier to open valves.
Wall decoration, also part of the spatial dimension, is another area influenced by the women. After they started working offshore, fewer picture of more or less semi-naked models have adorned work spaces and offices.
A platform is much more than a workplace. By extension, it is also a small but complex community on an artificial island where people live 24 hours a day.
This society is characterised by the need to perform many different functions and, in order to achieve that, people need to specialise.
Like the wider society on land, the Ekofisk community is complex because a great variety of activities have to be pursued. Some people are specialists on process, others on drilling or mud.
A complex society is also characterised by the fact that only partial identities are expressed through interactions in the various settings.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solheim, Jorun and Ellingsæter, Anne Lise, Den usynlige hånd. Kjønnsmakt og moderne arbeidsliv, 2003, Oslo.
The expression “partial identities” means that people do not see the whole person in their job, but only that part which is “relevant” to what they are doing there.
Nevertheless, the fact that personnel live on a platform around the clock will allow more aspects of their personality to emerge.
Occupational identity is central, largely fixed – and not negotiable. What can be negotiated or personally determined is whether the time offshore will be positive, whether one is going to be social.
People put each other in social categories and simplify by creating stereotypes. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson sees this need for simplification as a result of information overload which requires us to bring things down to a more manageable level.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solheim, Jorun and Ellingsæter, Anne Lise, Den usynlige hånd. Kjønnsmakt og moderne arbeidsliv, 2003, Oslo.
Statements such as “women in aspirational jobs … aren’t here long” about university-trained engineers reflect a stereotype of a feature or property of females with such qualifications.
It is easier to avoid leisure contacts with work colleagues on larger platforms. You can expect “somebody else” to be engaging in social interaction, so your absence will not be noticed.
Pressure to be sociable can be stronger on smaller installations, and you will feel under a greater obligation to be present in common parts.
It is particularly difficult for women to evade social relationships on a small platform because there are so few of them that their absence will be immediately noticed.
Different levels of affiliation to the job appear to affect how a person integrates with the platform community. Those permanently employed offshore and in stable jobs – whether for the operator or a contractor on a long-term contract – are more assimilated.
This group includes personnel in both production and service roles – process operators, nurses, radio operators, administrators and catering employees. They are often well integrated in the platform community and also have friends among those they have met offshore.
The exception is the nurses. Even though they are well assimilated, a number of female medical personnel indicate that they avoid over-close relationships for professional reasons.
Highly educated technical personnel and service company employees are often less integrated because their jobs are not permanent.
The same seems to apply to managers in typical career posts. It appears that the higher up the hierarchy a person is, the more formal their relationships will be.
With the role structure more strictly defined, such people are required to behave more formally. Formal structures create clear divisions of roles and demands for bodily control.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Douglas, Mary; Natural Symbols : explorations in cosmology. London 1996.
A woman in a management position offshore seldom has female colleagues at the same level. Should the job also absorb most of her time, it is hard to become intimate with other women.
If they are at work the whole time, social interaction becomes part of the job and the boundaries between work and leisure get blurred. That applies primarily to nurses and OIMs, who are always on call.
Everything was better before
Those who have worked offshore for a long time have claimed that everything was nicer before. Typical comments include: “we were all more united then”, “there’s much more division now”, and “we had a much better time”.
The reason why earlier times were finer was that certain jobs had fewer responsibilities than today. And TV sets in cabins with masses of channels must take a share of the blame for people being less sociable.
Various leisure activities are available offshore. These normalise the time spent there, and help to break up the routine of work, eat and sleep.
They help to make the time more meaningful. When a job is characterised by routine, a hobby which allows people to express their creativity can aid relaxation.
kvinnene på ekofisk, fritid, ekofiskmarsjen,
kvinnene på ekofisk, fritid,
Ekofisk 2/4 H, fritid,
kvinnene på ekofisk, fritid,
arbeidsliv, sosialt, fritid, jul, feiring, mat
Ekofisk 2/4 K, fritid, kinosal,
Everyone believes that having both genders represented on the platforms is beneficial, even though some people were sceptical to begin with.
Where women work in relation to the men has an impact on their bonding. Those who interact closely with male colleagues usually have man-to-man types of association – friendship, collegial ties, a superior-subordinate relationship and so forth.
Most emphasise the importance of not ending up in woman-man ties, such as becoming sweethearts or lovers, because this undermines the respect they have built up at work.
Gender is toned down. The great majority of women are keen to play down their female attributes.
Loose-fitting clothes and no makeup are standard for many of them offshore – regardless of the type of job they have.
But women in catering do not have the same need to play down their femininity. Because they work in “typical” female occupations, others accept if they act as women.
Women in other roles find it advantageous that somebody else serves as the centre of male attention. Job affiliation appears to be crucial in determining which females are possible objects for chatting up. Those working in catering are considered “worth trying it on with”, while a woman who is seen as one of the “lads” is not perceived as female in the same way.
Female morality debated
Romantic relationships have arisen in the North Sea, as in other workplaces. Some have led to lasting partnerships, while other love affairs have been more transitory.
Informants make such observations as “she was a lady of the more generous type and keen on men”, or “there were some who went right off the rails from all the attention”.
Most of the stories about these transitory romances are characterised by the fact that the discussion concentrates on the woman’s behaviour.
This represents a nature-culture dichotomy, where men are regarded as closer to the culture while women are closer to nature, because female morality becomes the point at issue.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ortner, Sherry;ed. Rosaldo, Michelle Zimbalist and Lamphere, Louise; Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? Woman, culture, and society Stanford University Press, 1974.
The woman is the one who steps outside the accepted norms, and who can undermine the position of other females by giving their whole gender the stamp of immorality.
Women are felt to have only themselves to blame if they are not properly treated offshore. In other words, a woman who is subject to verbal or other harassment has given the wrong signals and brought it on herself.
Catering workers are often regarded as group which represent a social factor by definition. First, most of the females on a platform are found here, and part of their job is to create homelike conditions for the others.
These personnel are metaphorically the “mothers” in the big platform family..[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solheim, J, og Hanssen-Bauer, J. Kompleksitet og fellesskap på en Nordsjø-plattform : rapport fra et besøk på Statfjordfeltet Rapport / Arbeidsforskningsinstituttene, Arbeidspsykologisk institutt, Prosjektgruppe Arbeidsmiljø på kontinentalsokkelen ; 108/83 Oslo : Arbeidsforskningsinstituttene, Arbeidspsykologisk institutt.They are the ones who create the “domestic” environment with good food and clean, tidy rooms. At the same time, they come into contact with many other occupational groups offshore.
Women in this occupation can allow themselves to categorise males by different criteria than those used by females who work closely with men because they see what lies behind the male facade. Catering gets closer to the private sphere of the other personnel.
Must fit in
Virtually all women employed offshore find it positive to be working in an environment with many men. The attitude is that “if you’re straightforward and genuine yourself, you get a lot back” and “you learn what men are like when you work in a male society”.
The woman is the one who must cope with being in a masculine workplace. “It’s good to have more females, but you must fit it,” is a frequent comment. That refers to succeeding not only in working so intensively, but also in being a woman in a relatively marginal position.
Social relations on land
A factor which is not visible offshore but very definitely present is the relationship with family and friends on land. Most of the women in this study have both husband and children.
Many were mothers when they started working offshore, or have since become so, and have had one or two periods of maternity leave.
Combining a platform job with family life on land is not regarded by the informants as particularly problematic. On the contrary, they have organised themselves in such a way that working offshore and having a good time when at home is preferable to a nine-to-five job ashore.
Some of the mothers have been single parents or shared care with the child’s father. Many have a good network of friends and family who help out when they are offshore. In many cases, it is society at large which makes a problem out of a mother being away from their offspring.
Responsibility for organising matters at home appears to rest with the women. Earlier studies of male offshore workers and feedback from such informants indicate that men employed offshore fail to accept the same level of responsibility for their family.
The helicopter flight from/to land is a key part of working offshore. This journey has been called a rite of passage, but many experience their whole time on the platforms as a marginal phase. You travel from something, spend time away from “normal” society, and reintegrate with it when your tour is over.
A number of North Sea workers start their offshore tour well ahead of flying out. The transition from normal life on land to one directed at their platform job occurs before they depart.
That applies primarily to women. Many of them plan the life of their family while they are away. They organise, clear up and put things in order to minimise the drawbacks for those staying at home. Men are more “a soul and a shirt” when they set off.
Everyone positions themselves and has their standpoint, including those who regard women from the outside and communicate their view. Media want to talk about the North Sea pioneers, labour disputes and special episodes.
The various magazines published by companies say something about their corporate identity: “We support women offshore, and give them opportunities, we want to come across as a company where equal opportunities are important”.
While the positive woman is presented in personal in-depth interviews, however, the negative ones get presented as a group. Females are stigmatised as grumblers and malcontents.
The women worth presenting are the distinctive individuals who become the first to hold a particular job, usually a high-status post previously reserved for men.
Different jobs carry varying weight when describing them. Stories about a hard grind in a tough masculine occupation get more attention than ones on drudgery in the physical care sectors.
Being visible can also be interpreted as others seeing what you do. Many offshore workers find that they are regarded as people who make good money and have a lot of free time – who are better off than others.
Å bli sett kan også tolkes som det at andre ser hva man gjør. Mange som jobber i Nordsjøen erfarer at de blir sett på som personer som tjener godt og har mye fri. De blir sett som folk som har det bedre enn andre.
Neighbours and friends have no idea what happens out in the North Sea, and women working offshore find little understanding in their home environment of what their job is like.
Published 2. July 2020 • Updated 22. February 2021
by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The Norwegian authorities want the country’s petroleum sector to be the best in the world for health, safety and the environment (HSE). And Ekofisk operator ConocoPhillips aims to improve safety continuously.
— A man on his way into a Whittaker life boat during a rescue exercise at Ekofisk. Photo: ConocoPhillips/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Oil and gas operations on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) are perpetually changing, with knowledge and technology making constant progress. New ways of operating get introduced, and digitalisation has demanded major organisational changes in recent times. HSE must adapt to a changing reality. Safety is a perishable commodity, and must always be high on the agenda. “Good enough” is not sufficient, either for the Norwegian government or for ConocoPhillips.
The goal of being best in the world – and in Norway – calls for continuous safety improvements. That requires good interaction between human, technological and organisational (HTO) factors.
Procedures and technical safety will always provide the bedrock in this endeavour. But the concept of corporate culture also became a key part of the safety mindset in the 1980s. A number of behavioural and cultural programmes have been adopted – along with new ways of thinking about safety. Some of the priority areas are covered below.
Understanding how and why these innovative approaches came to characterise safety on the NCS and Ekofisk needs to start with a review of relevant historical developments off Norway.
The first and biggest change in offshore safety came with the Norwegian Working Environment Act of 1977, which was extended to fixed installations on the NCS the following year.
This legislation was aimed at protecting job conditions, ensuring equal treatment at work and securing collaboration between employer and employees. It involved a sharp upgrading in employment rights compared with the Worker Protection Act of 1956. Elected safety delegates and a working environment committee became mandatory in companies, while worker participation in decision-making was given legal force.
Starting from an acknowledgement that people make mistakes, the Act specifies that safety work in companies must therefore aim to reduce the consequences of such human errors. Working conditions and technology must be tailored to the employees – the goal of safety efforts is not to change people but the conditions they work in.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Foss, G (2006). Adferdsbasert Sikkerhet i En Norsk Kontekst: Petroleumsnæringen Som Case, 2006. MSc thesis, faculty of social sciences, University of Stavanger: 21.
Democratically elected by the workforce, safety delegates were given greater rights to intervene in work processes. That included the power to halt dangerous work, which represented a substantial constraint on the employer’s right to manage.
Rooted in the Working Environment Act, the safety regime for the petroleum industry continued to develop on the basis of the “Norwegian model”. This social template comprises a strong welfare state, a regulated labour market and an interventionist collaboration between three parties – employers, unions and government. Where the oil and gas sector are concerned, the model involves government – represented by ministries and regulators – companies and unions joining forces to develop pay and working conditions, including HSE.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Meland, T (2016), “Sikkerheten utfordres”, Norsk Oljemuseums årbok 2017: 43.This tripartite collaboration involves a principle of equality and depends on trust, good communication and mutual recognition of roles and responsibilities.
However, this trust and mutual recognition have been challenged at times – particularly when the Norwegian economy has taken a turn for the worse.
Phillips Petroleum was an early adopter of the safety delegate system. It introduced this on its Ekofisk platforms in 1976, two years before the Act came into force offshore. That was not only to be proactive, but also because the Ministry of Industry ordered this following a fire on Ekofisk 2/4 A where three people died.[REMOVE]Fotnote: The ministry ordered Phillips on 4 December 1975 to establish a safety delegate service covering contractors and sub-contractors involved on the field. See Smith-Solbakken, Marie, and Vinnem, Jan Erik “Alfa-plattform-ulykken”, Store norsk leksikon, 18 November 2019.An industrial safety and environmental committee was also appointed, which became a forerunner of the mandatory working environment committee required by the Act. Read more: Fire om Ekofisk 2/4 A
Self-regulation and collaboration
In the early phase on the NCS, during the 1970s, offshore safety was largely dealt with through extensive regulations, checks, inspections and detailed orders. This regulatory approach was difficult to administer and supervise, and the constant introduction of new technology demanded continuous updating of the rules. Such detailed control also undermined the industry’s understanding of its own responsibility as well as hampering innovation and creativity.
In order to develop a more flexible system and give the players a greater sense of responsibility, a form of self-regulation was gradually applied to the companies in the 1980s. This involved a shift from specific regulatory demands to performance-based requirements – detailing what standards were to be attained, but not how that was to be done. The companies were given growing freedom to choose what safety solutions they wanted to apply, and greater opportunities to blend technology, experience and creativity in cost-effective ways. A precondition for such performance-based regulations was the tripartite collaboration mentioned above, with its mutual trust between employers, unions and government.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Foss, G (2006). Adferdsbasert Sikkerhet I En Norsk Kontekst: Petroleumsnæringen Som Case, 2006. MSc thesis, faculty of social sciences, University of Stavanger: 24.
Establishing formal interaction between the parties took time, but an external reference group for regulations was set up in 1986. Chaired by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), this forum included unions and employer organisations in the oil and gas sector as well as government authorities. That arena made it possible for members to keep abreast of ongoing regulatory work and to comment on important proposals as they were made. In turn, this created greater ownership of, and consensus on, the final proposals.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Report no 7 (2001-2002) to the Storting, Om helse, miljø og sikkerhet i petroleumsvirksomheten, Vol no 7 (2001-2002), Ministry of Labour and Government Administration, Oslo, 2002: downloaded from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/stmeld-nr-7-2001-2002-/id134387/sec2.
Continuous safety improvements became the motto, with operations on the NCS becoming steadily safer in the 1980s. They eventually set a standard for other industries exposed to risk.
During the 1990s, mutual trust between the parties in the Norwegian petroleum sector gradually weakened and the level of industrial conflict increased.
The conditions which had underpinned the safety system in the 1980s changed as the industry experienced rapid technological progress and constant reorganisations.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Alteren, B, and HSE Petroleum: “Endring – organisasjon – teknologi”, HMS-arbeid under endring, 2003 (topic 4 in HSE Petroleum K2: Endring, organisasjon, teknologi). Vol STF38 A03406, department for safety and reliability, Sintef (printed edition). Sintef, Teknologiledelse, sikkerhet og pålitelighet, Trondheim: 11.
Oil prices were also substantially lower for most of the 1990s than they had been in the previous decade, and a big slump began in 1998 – with a corresponding decline in profitability. In cooperation with the authorities, the industry initiated a far-reaching campaign to reduce costs. This led not least to restructuring and downsizing. Meanwhile, the unions had been weakened by a number of tough labour disputes as well as mutual rivalry and internal disputes. Read more: From in-house association to independent union.
The level of safety and risk on the NCS was nevertheless regarded as good. Improvements were admittedly no longer seen, but both companies and government felt that conditions had stabilised at a high level.
So the NPD’s injury statistics, which were based on lost-time injuries (when the victim was unable to work after an accident), showed no deterioration. But those working offshore were constantly voicing concerns. Although accidents and lost-time injuries had not risen, a number of serious incidents were occurring on the NCS. These included big gas leaks, well kicks and collisions between units.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Report no 7 (2001-2002) to the Storting, Om helse, miljø og sikkerhet i petroleumsvirksomheten, Vol no 7 (2001-2002), Ministry of Labour and Government Administration, Oslo, 2002: downloaded from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/stmeld-nr-7-2001-2002-/id134387/sec2. Several unions expressed worries about the increased risk of major accidents.
However, the oil companies did not accept this negative picture. They reported that, despite several serious incidents, safety had never been better.
Certain top executives even claimed that safety attracted too much attention and absorbed excessive resources. Union concerns were considered by some to be camouflage for underlying social and economic motives.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, Helge, R (2004). Fra forvitring til ny giv: Om en storulykke som aldri inntraff? Working note no 26: 13.
So how could two such different perceptions of reality exist side-by-side? The answer may lie in the lack of suitable measurement tools for risk assessment.
The NPD had to acknowledge that a mismatch existed between the number of incidents offshore and in the injury statistics, and that available tools gave an inadequate basis for establishing the true level of risk on the NCS. It took the initiative to develop a new approach to measurement in this area, which became a study entitled “trends in risk level on the NCS” or RNNS.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Now “trends in risk level in the petroleum activity” (RNNP).The project was unique in that it combined quantitative data with qualitative observations and analyses. Work on it got going seriously in the winter of 2000.
From an early stage, it became clear that the indicators produced by the RNNS revealed a worrying trend. This challenged the tripartite collaboration, and undermined the mutual trust underpinning the whole safety system. “We’re registering far too many serious incidents out on the platforms,” Magne Ognedal, the NPD’s safety director, told Oslo daily Dagbladet. “I don’t have a good gut feeling any more.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stang, Leif, 16 October 2000, “Frykter storulykke”, Dagbladet.He and his boss, NPD director general Gunnar Berge, sent a joint letter to the industry ordering it to take “new” steps to reduce the level of risk. This must be seen as a sharp reprimand to the whole sector.
The general level of safety improved on the NCS in 1980s, but the conditions which caused the subsequent weakening also applied to Ekofisk and Phillips. Like most of the oil companies, the latter cut back its workforce sharply in the late 1990s.
At the same time, the Ekofisk Committee – the biggest union on the field – had been weakened by internal disputes. It had left the Federation of Offshore Workers Trade Unions (OFS) and joined the Norwegian Oil and Petrochemical Workers Union, part of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). See article: Ekofisk Committee merges with NOPEF.
In parallel with the adoption of the RNNP tool, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy produced Report no 39 (1999-2000) to the Storting (parliament) on 9 June 2000. This White Paper declared that oil and gas operations were being pursued within a prudent framework, but also noted the NPD’s assessment that the overall level of risk was increasing.
At the same time, the NPD had found that virtually all accidents and injuries could ultimately have been avoided.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Report no 7 (2001-2002) to the Storting, Om helse, miljø og sikkerhet i petroleumsvirksomheten, Vol no 7 (2001-2002), Ministry of Labour and Government Administration,Oslo, 2002: downloaded from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/stmeld-nr-7-2001-2002-/id134387/sec2: 107. It felt that the most important improvement potential related to workplace customisation and making individual workers more aware.
Eighteen months after the petroleum ministry’s White Paper, in December 2001, the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration presented Report no 7 (2001-2002) to the Storting.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Constitutional responsibility for safety and the working environment in the petroleum industry had been transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Labour, later the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration.This criticised the way the companies organised safety, and particularly the failure to give sufficient emphasis to tripartite collaboration and worker participation. The companies were ordered to maintain their commitment to technology development which aimed to achieve improvements in the HSE area.
A new concept was introduced by the White Paper – the zero mindset. This reflects the view that accidents do not happen, but are caused. All can therefore be prevented. The goal was to be zero injuries and accidents, which required establishing accountability at every level and paying continuous attention to risk management, prevention and learning lessons.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Report no 7 (2001-2002) to the Storting, Om helse, miljø og sikkerhet i petroleumsvirksomheten, Vol no 7 (2001-2002), Ministry of Labour and Government Administration,Oslo, 2002: downloaded from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/stmeld-nr-7-2001-2002-/id134387/sec2. This can be interpreted as an assumption by the government that human behaviour was the underlying cause of accidents and injuries.
But the zero mindset was only a small part of the White Paper, with the ministry giving the main emphasis to accountability and concentrating on risk management, prevention and learning lessons.
The NPD followed up by fronting risk management and improvements to safety technology which could reduce risk – along with a good safety culture.
Managing safety at work would remain entrenched in legislation, regulations, guidelines and standards. The actual management job was governed by the internal control regulations, which addressed systematic HSE work by companies. Barrier thinking became an important condition for good safety and risk management. According to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA),[REMOVE]Fotnote: The NPD was split in 2002 into two independent agencies, with that part of the directorate which had dealt with safety and the working environment becoming the PSA with effect from 1 January 2004. It reported to the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration. its purpose is “to establish and maintain barriers so that the risk faced at any given time can be handled by preventing an undesirable incident from occurring or by limiting the consequences should such an incident occur”. Normal practice is to divide barriers into three main types – organisational, technical and human/operational – although these can be difficult to distinguish from each other. However, organisational barriers include procedures, specifications, work permits, management systems and safe job analyses (SJAs). The human barriers, for their part, involve knowledge, experience, characteristics and behavioural patterns. While technical barriers can in principle perform their function on their own, they should and must often be combined with organisational and/or operational components. But people and organisation cannot serve as a barrier function on their own. They must always be combined with at least one of the other types.
Barrier thinking is closely related to high fault tolerance – which means that a system continues to function if something goes wrong. Inbuilt capabilities limit the consequences of such faults.
Another important safety-related concept is redundancy, which involves an additional margin being built into systems where a high level of reliability is essential. A cornerstone of modern safety thinking, redundancy refers to the degree of reserve capacity – technical or human – in a system or an organisation.
How this affected Ekofisk
After 2000, the behavioural aspect was given ever-increasing emphasis in safety work as the zero mindset spread rapidly through the Norwegian oil industry. This conveys a simple message which is difficult to disagree with, setting a long-term goal of preventing harm to people and the environment and of avoiding accidents and losses. ConocoPhillips was one of the many companies to embrace the zero mindset, and it formulated its safety goal from 2003 as “zero undesirable incidents”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Målet er null uønskede hendelser”, Pioner, February 2003.
The following appears on the company’s website: “More than ever, the company will promote a culture that focuses on safety in everything we do, by implementing the zero philosophy to eliminate unintentional incidents. “The zero philosophy is intended to reduce the number of injuries and critical incidents to zero. Attitudes are a key element of our safety training to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for their own and co-workers’ safety.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: http://www.conocophillips.no/social-responsibility/health-safety-and-environment/.
Human behaviour acquired an important role in the zero mindset, and ConocoPhillips worked on the principle that changing the way employees thought and acted would improve safety. As the company itself expresses this: “recognise that harm does not occur – it is created – and that it is the individual’s attitudes and experience which help to avoid harm”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stolpe, M (2007). Nullfilosofi i Praksis: Et Case Av Statoil Mongstad, IV, 139: 48.
Under the slogan “Our safety, my responsibility”, a number of different awareness-raising measures and attitude-changing campaigns were initiated.
It would not be true to say that the zero mindset and the concentration on human factors as safety risks were introduced to Norway’s oil sector by the 2001 White Paper. Behavioural or cultural programmes directed at changing employee behaviour and attitudes were a trend which had already been heading towards the NCS for several years.
As early as 1996, Phillips introduced its 4R programme, which aimed to create a workplace free of accidents and serious incidents. Its title stood for register, report, react and reduce.
Like most other companies, Phillips believed that existing systems and procedures took care of the risk that a major accident might occur.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “4R er godt i gang”, EkofiskNytt, no 21, week 50, 1996.
The 4R programme aimed to register and report all types of incidents in the workplace, including poor behaviour and hazardous conditions as well as site untidy conditions. Every case would lead to a reaction from the company – in other words, a follow-up – in order to reduce the risk of accidents. An important consideration was that employees would become conscious of and involved with their own working habits and those of others. Such involvement would develop preventive behaviour, with employees becoming more aware of the errors they and their colleagues were making. This forms part of what is known as organisational redundancy in safety work. Employees will consult with, check and correct each other. Ekofisk personnel would “use a magnifying glass to uncover every hazard before an undesirable incident occurs”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Økt satsing på forebyggende sikkerhet”, EkofiskNytt, no 20, 1996.The company’s new vision was an accident-free environment at work offshore and on land, as well as in the home.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Økt satsing på forebyggende sikkerhet”, EkofiskNytt, no 20, 1996. In other words, changes in behaviour and attitudes would not only colour life on the platform, but also ashore and domestically.
With 4R designed as a low-threshold scheme, personnel were required to note down observations in the workplace and deliver them to their immediate superior. And management was to give feedback about how the matter was dealt with. This system was a tool for getting to grips with the small issues which were not defined as an incident, but which might lead to one later if management failed to deal with them.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Bjørn Saxvik, HSE manager, Greater Ekofisk Area operations. Interviewed by Kjersti Melberg and Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum, 16 October 2019.Implementing the programme – still in use today across the Greater Ekofisk Area – on the various platforms was ranked on a scale from one to 10. It applied initially to cleanliness and tidiness, and prizes were awarded for passing level six.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Økt satsing på forebyggende sikkerhet”, EkofiskNytt, no 20, 1996.
Phillips and the other companies on the NCS were not alone in implementing such cultural and awareness processes. The ideas came primarily from large consultancies known for their safety systems, which developed strategies and campaigns purchased and applied by the oil companies.
The largest and best-known of these consultants was DuPont, an American chemicals group which has specialised in safety and protection. Its work was based on a theory that 85-95 per cent of all accidents were caused by human error and that a correlation existed between hazardous behaviour and major accidents. The latter are regarded as acute incidents which immediately or subsequently cause serious personal injuries and/or fatalities, serious damage to the environment and/or loss of major material assets.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Meland, T (2018). “Sikkerheten utfordres”. Årbok Norsk Oljemuseum 2017: 39.
Often called the iceberg model, the theory applied by DuPont has occupied a key place in the petroleum industry over the past 20 years and also comes in a popular version. This states that incidents, minor accidents and near misses, and major accidents all have the same causes and that the relationship between them is constant. Reducing the frequency of minor accidents will therefore produce a corresponding cut in the risk of major disasters.
Although the iceberg model is not often referred to directly in communications from ConocoPhillips, it nevertheless underlies the many campaigns pursued by the company. These ideas are controversial internally, and not everyone is equally convinced about the correlation between behaviour and major accident risk, or the value of the theory.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Bjørn Saxvik, HSE manager, Greater Ekofisk Area operations. Interviewed by Kjersti Melberg and Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum, 16 October 2019.Nevertheless, the belief that the key to improved safety lies in changing worker behaviour is fundamental to much of the organisation in this area at ConocoPhillips.
The 4R programme was the first awareness campaign initiated by Phillips to improve safety through behavioural change, and was followed during the 2000s by a number of similar drives.
Phillips merged in 2002 with Conoco, another US oil and gas company which had been part of DuPont from 1981 before being sold off in 1999.
After the link-up, the renamed ConocoPhillips company launched a new personal safety involvement (PSI) awareness programme based on a template developed by Conoco and DuPont. This was also inspired by Statoil’s new “open safety conversation” awareness programme, which the Norwegian state oil company had introduced in 2002.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Bjørn Saxvik, HSE manager, Greater Ekofisk Area operations. Interviewed by Kjersti Melberg and Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum, 16 October 2019.
PSI builds on the theory that the great majority of accidents are attributable to human action, such as unsafe behaviour and poor working habits, and aims to address such aspects anew.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Samtaler om sikkerhet”, Pioner, June 2004.
It is based on creating the good conversation in the workplace, being present and daring to admit one’s incompetence. Through conversing, employees will learn how to talk to each other about work-related assignments and circumstances.
Training programmes, activities and lectures were developed. The formal PSI lessons comprised two-hour practice conversations for awareness training, a full-day course and a training camp where participants formulated and agreed on HSE obligations.
Before a job can start, its risk aspects and possible injury prevention measures must be discussed between the supervisor and those doing the work. This conversation is intended to function as an approach to setting targets which make safety a natural part of the workplace culture.
PSI is regarded as a management tool for eliminating risky behaviour, as in-house magazine Pioner reported in a 2014 article:
Managers, supervisors and safety personnel will visit groups and individuals in the workplace and conduct a conversation about safety measures with those doing the job. The topic of the chat is how safety has already been put into effect and how [it] might be enhanced in the relevant work operation. The manager will then fill out a simple report on the safety conversation, which is filed for further processing.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Samtaler om sikkerhet”, Pioner, June 2004.
The falcon was chosen as a symbol, the article noted. Its sharp eye, viewing the world from great heights and swiftly closing in when it has a specific target, is the behaviour ConocoPhillips wants from its employees.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Samtaler om sikkerhet”, Pioner, June 2004.
PSI remains the most important instrument for improving the safety culture on Ekofisk. It is important to emphasise that this was not introduced as a replacement for other safety measures, but as a supplement. Tools such as SJAs and work permits (WPs) still underpin all operations carried out offshore.
An SJA is a systematic and step-by-step review of all risk elements before starting a job or operation, in order to identify possible measures to remove or control identified hazards. For its part, a WP provides written authorisation to perform a defined job in a safe manner at an given place on a facility and under specified conditions. This will ensure that normal barriers are not removed without compensatory measures being adopted. It also ensures that all other activities on the facility are assessed to avoid unintentional consequences or undesirable incidents escalating.
A common model for WPs and SJAs has been developed for use on the NCS. While safety delegates do not have a particular role in approving WPs, they play a defined part in SJAs.
Operations at ConocoPhillips have eventually become entrenched in a set of values known as Spirit – for safety, people, integrity, responsibility, innovation and teamwork.
This applies not only locally in Norway but also for the group worldwide, and is intended as guidance on how work should be done across the whole organisation.
Safety: we operate safely.
People: we respect one another, recognising that our success depends upon the commitment, capabilities and diversity of our employees.
Integrity: we are ethical and trustworthy in our relationships with stakeholders.
Responsibility: we are accountable for our actions. We are a good neighbour and citizen in the communities where we operate.
Innovation: we anticipate change and respond with creative solutions. We are agile and responsive to the changing needs of stakeholders, and embrace learning opportunities from our experience around the world.
Teamwork: our “can do” spirit delivers top performance. We encourage collaboration, celebrate success, and build and nurture long-standing relationships.
Spirit builds on a recognition that safety is always the most important consideration. The group’s expressed goal is to have a safety culture which yields top HSE results. As part of its awareness work and compliance with the Spirit values, ConocoPhillips developed a three-point HSE policy:
work is never so urgent or important that we cannot take the time to do it safely and in an environmentally responsible manner
we will always set specific HSE goals for all our activities, and strive at all times for continuous improvement
against the background of the setting in which we pursue our daily work, contributing to sustainable development is a duty and important strategy for us.[REMOVE]Fotnote: ussand, Kjetil L, and Kleggetveit, Stian K (2014), Kunnskapsoverføring – En Vei Til Økt Sikkerhet: 60.
The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP), to which ConocoPhillips belongs, published a set of life-saving rules in 2010 aimed at reducing risk and eliminating serious incidents in the industry.
This code was not intended to address all risks and hazards in the oil and gas sector, but to call attention to activities where the threat of accidents was highest. It supported existing company systems rather than replacing their management solutions, guidelines, safety training programmes, operating procedures or work instructions.
With the life-saving rules, the IOGP has turned the spotlight on activities which have shown the greatest probability for accidents with fatal consequences.
The idea is that standardising these principles will simplify training, assist compliance with and understanding of critical precautions, and help with experience transfer.
Virtually all the operators on the NCS were quick to adopt these rules, with ConocoPhillips opting to apply eight such provisions.
These would support and strengthen existing safety programmes and contribute to reaching the HSE goal of zero undesirable incidents. The rules applied to the group’s own employees and contractors everywhere it operated, and were to be a permanent part of its corporate culture.[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Bringing safety to life”, Spirit, ConocoPhillips, 2014.
These eight are as follows:
Work with a valid work permit when required.
Obtain authorisation before entering a confined space.
Protect yourself against a fall when working at height.
Follow safe lifting operations and do not walk under a suspended load.
Verify isolation before work begins.
Obtain authorisation before starting ground disturbance or excavation activities.
Obtain authorisation before bypassing, disabling or inhibiting a safety protection device or equipment.
Wear your seat belt, obey speed limits and do not use any mobile device while driving.
A ninth life-saving rule on keeping out of the line of fire was later introduced by the IOGP. And rules on establishing and respecting barriers and exclusion zones were also incorporated in ConocoPhillips Norway’s safety culture to eliminate undesirable incidents.
New crisis – new spotlight
After many years with high oil prices, Norway and the rest of the world saw them slump sharply during 2014 – which led in turn to cost cuts and downsizing in the Norwegian petroleum sector. Concerns quickly arose that efforts to trim spending would have a negative impact on safety in the industry. Although major incidents had been avoided, the business was not accident-free. The safety position on the NCS was again characterised in 2015-16 by a number of serious occurrences and other challenges, at the same time as big change processes, reorganisations and redundancies were under way. A number of media stories suggested it was appropriate to ask whether safety on the NCS was being sacrificed in an economic downturn.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Meland, T (2016), “Sikkerheten utfordres”, Norsk Oljemuseums årbok 2017.
Journalists were not alone in posing such questions – government regulators, unions and public opinion all gave expression to concerns about the level of safety.
Against that background, Anniken Hauglie, the Conservative minister for labour and social affairs, appointed a committee to address this issue. It was charged with determining whether a connection existed between the many incidents offshore and the big cost cuts made by the industry in the wake of the 2014 oil price slump. A report was produced, and formed the basis for Report no 12 (2017-2018) to the Storting on HSE in the petroleum industry – the first White Paper on the subject in seven years.
Both this document and the preceding committee report concluded that tripartite collaboration was functioning well, but faced challenges. As a result of restructuring and efficiency improvements, company organisations were devoting less time and resources to tripartite work. But the difficulties seemed even greater for employer-employee (bipartite) relations.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Meland, T (2016), “Sikkerheten utfordres”, Norsk Oljemuseums årbok 2017.
The White Paper nevertheless concluded that Norway’s HSE regime was by and large in good shape, and that the main provisions in the regulations were robust and should be retained.
During and after this oil crisis, cutting costs was important for ConocoPhillips – as it was for all the other players in the sector. The company was robust, but had to take some action. The workforce was downsized, although without compulsory redundancies. Ensuring that the process was voluntary ensured calm in the organisation, reports Bjørn Saxvik, HSE manager for Greater Ekofisk Area operations.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Bjørn Saxvik, HSE manager, Greater Ekofisk Area operations. Interviewed by Kjersti Melberg and Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum, 16 October 2019.
During the oil industry downturn in 2014, Steinar Våge, the regional manager in ConocoPhillips at the time, reported that the company’s positive safety trend was also going into reverse. Now was the time to sharpen up. To get back on track, full compliance with procedures was essential. Everyone had to pull themselves together and be present in all operations. By doing this while also demanding that the eight life-saving rules were observed, the company would get back on track towards zero undesirable incidents.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Våge, S, “Effektivitet og konkurransekraft”, Pioner, no 1, 2014.
That called in addition for utilising risk analyses and exerting control of other organisational and technical barriers, along with PSI conversations. Together with the life-saving rules, these would set the standard for work in ConocoPhillips. Efforts to make safety improvements were to be resumed through good communication and a working culture where it was permissible to stop and ask questions.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Skjeggestad, K R, HSE manager, ConocoPhillips, “Beredskap er å være forberedt”. Pioner, no 4, 2017.
ConocoPhillips was named best operator on the NCS in the 2018 Gullkronen (Gold Crown) awards for its work with the Ekofisk field. Presented annually by consultancy Rystad Energy, these distinctions are presented to companies, teams or individuals who have shown an outstanding commitment on the NCS.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Rystad Energy is an independent analysis and consultancy company established in Oslo during 2004. The Gold Crown awards were first made in 2009.The jury citation stated: “The winner has displayed a high level of production efficiency over a long period, with an excellent HSE standard.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: “Vant pris som beste feltoperatør på norsk sokkel”, Pioner, no 1, 2018.This award must be viewed as confirmation that ConocoPhillips and the workforce on the Ekofisk field had succeeded in bringing the safety trend back on track.
Safety work is not about eliminating risk, but involves having good barriers – to protect against errors, hazards and accidents – as well as redundancy. But it is also about good communication between work colleagues and managers. Much be learnt by listening to what others have experienced and by sharing one’s own experience.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Skjeggestad, K R, HSE manager, ConocoPhillips, “Beredskap er å være forberedt”, Pioner, no 4, 2017.
Different systems for rotating personnel between work and leisure functioned in parallel on the drilling rigs during the early years of oil exploration in the Norwegian North Sea. The most common practice was nevertheless one week on and one off. To get a holiday, people carried on working offshore until they were entitled to three weeks free in one go.
However, this arrangement proved impractical – particularly for workers who going offshore or returning home on a Saturday or Sunday. They never got a full weekend off. To stagger such change-overs, the schedule was extended to eight days offshore with eight days free. One work period in five was also dropped, so every fifth free spell was 24 days long.[REMOVE]Fotnote: This gave a working time which averaged 38 hours per week and 1 824 hours per year after holidays. That corresponded to shift work on land.
When Norway’s Working Environment Act (WEA) came into force in 1977, the permitted length of a continuous shift on land was cut. But there was no assurance that this would be applied offshore. In its original form, the Act did not permit the 12-hour working day normal on all offshore installations. So amendments were needed to adapt the legal provisions to fixed platforms.[REMOVE]Fotnote: The Act specified that working time was 36 hours over seven days for work carried out around the clock throughout the week. That represented 1 877 hours a year on average. Adjusting this for four weeks of holiday gave a net working time of 1 733 hours.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate argued that reducing working time offshore was impractical, with the “special character” of the oil industry requiring exemptions.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, H, 1999, “Fra forbilde til sikkerhetssystem i forvitring: Fremveksten av et norsk sikkerhetsregime i lys av utviklingen på britisk sokkel”, Working Paper, Volume 114, Centre for Technology and Culture, University of Oslo, printed edition. Oslo: Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture (TIK), University of Oslo: 16. As early as 1975, however, Ekofisk operator Phillips Petroleum had agreed to working hours for its own personnel which accorded with the provisions proposed for the new Act. A royal decree of 9 July 1976 extended the existing Worker Protection Act, with certain exceptions, to the fixed installations offshore on a temporary basis.
The WEA was then applied to these facility in 1977.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, H, 1999, “Fra forbilde til sikkerhetssystem i forvitring: Fremveksten av et norsk sikkerhetsregime i lys av utviklingen på britisk sokkel”, Working Paper, Volume 114, Centre for Technology and Culture, University of Oslo, printed edition. Oslo: Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture (TIK), University of Oslo: 18. This meant that offshore workers had their working time regulated and acquired legal safeguards against unfair dismissal. After long discussions, the North Sea schedule was by and large established as two weeks working offshore and three weeks free on land.
But the WEA was not applied to floating units such as rigs, and working time in that part of the oil industry continued to be regulated by Norway’s Ship Labour Act.
An extra day
Norway’s legislation on paid holidays was amended in 1981 to give everyone a legal right to four weeks and one day off. The latter was nicknamed the “Gro Day” after Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Labour premier of the day. This meant the two weeks on/three weeks off schedule now imposed too many working hours. It was decided that the extra would be compensated as 25 hours of overtime per year.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Working time was reduced from 1 752 to 1 727 hours.
Agreement was reached in the 1986 collective pay negotiations on a 7.5-hour normal working day and a 37.5-hour week. Personnel both on land and offshore working a continuous shift also had their weekly hours cut 33.6.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Net working hours after deducting holidays were reduced from 1 752 to 1 727. To comply with these new terms, the offshore schedule was altered to two weeks at work, three weeks ashore, two weeks at work and four weeks on land.
When the Gro Day was introduced in 1981, the Labour government originally proposed introducing a full week’s extra holiday in stages over three years. But that failed to materialise. In 2000, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) proposed a fifth holiday week for all employees, which would thereby reduce the number of hours in a work-year.[REMOVE]Fotnote: That involved an additional four free days of 7.5 hours offshore (32 hours). The hours to be worked were then reduced from 1 612 to 1 580. That demand was accepted, and most workers could thereby enjoy five weeks off. This naturally had consequences offshore, but implementing it there was not a straightforward matter.
A schedule of two weeks at work and three/four weeks at home had been 19 hours short of a normal work-year. That was overcome by deducting this time from pay or leaving the first 11 hours of overtime unpaid.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Sande, Leif, “Arbeidstiden på sokkelen”, Sysla – meninger, 11 March 2015.
The new holiday deal meant that an offshore worker would be doing 12 extra hours per year. This was initially paid as overtime, which the unions found unsatisfactory. They demanded the full holiday entitlement awarded to everyone else through the introduction of a schedule of two weeks on and four off. In 2002, the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF – today the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association) allowed local deals under the offshore agreements to adopt this two-four scheme. All the companies subject to these agreements introduced the new schedule. ConocoPhillips was among the operators to do this, in its case covering the Greater Ekofisk Area.
However, the two-four system meant workers were falling short of a work-year by 122 hours.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Working 12 hours a day for 14 days, followed by four weeks off, means that an employee works 168 hours every six-week period. That adds up to 1 460 hours per year. Annual pay was thereby cut by 7.71 per cent to take account of the reduced time worked.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norwegian Official Reports (NOU) 2016:1, Arbeidstidsutvalget — Regulering av arbeidstid – vern og fleksibilitet. https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/nou-2016-1/id2467468/sec16. Other conditions were also set on Ekofisk. The whole offshore organisation was to be reviewed to find efficiency gains, and the agreement specified that the change would not lead to an increase in the workforce.[REMOVE]Fotnote:Pioner, “2-4-ordningen innføres”, March 2003.
Published 21. October 2019 • Updated 21. October 2019
Åm was born at Årdal in the Sogn district of western Norway in 1944, and grew up in Oppdal and Volda/Ørsta where he proved an able pupil at school.
He opted to study mining engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) in Trondheim, graduating with honours in 1967.
Åm’s first job was with the Norwegian Geological Survey (NGU), again in Trondheim, where he worked and conducted research for six years.One of his jobs was to interpret aeromagnetic measurements of sub-surface rocks made from the air, which provide valuable information on geology and prospects for finding petroleum.In a series of publications, he described the big sedimentary basins identified in the Skagerrak between Norway and Denmark and in the Norwegian and Barents Seas.
He joined the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) in 1974, serving as a section head in the resource department and a principal engineer in the safety department.
That was followed by three years with Statoil, where he became the state oil company’s first vice president for research and development.His appointments at the time included chairinga research programme on offshore safety, which led to legislation enacted by the Storting (parliament) and a bigger research effort.
Åm secured a job with Phillips in 1982 and was soon sent to the head office at Bartlesville in Oklahoma to get better acquainted withthe company and its corporate culture.
After a year in the USA, he returned to thecompany’s Tananger office outside Stavanger and became the first Norwegian to serve as offshore manager for the Greater Ekofisk Area (GEA).
That put him in charge of 23 platforms, with responsibility for the waterflooding programme as well as the project to jack up a number of the installations.These major developments extended the producing life of the GEA and sharply increased estimates for recoverable reserves from its fields.
Åm led this work during difficult times, with low oil prices and the need to implement cost savings and overcome substantial financial challenges.As if that were not enough, he also taught at the University of Bergen from 1985 to 1990 as an adjunct (part-time) professor of applied geophysics.
First Norwegian chief executive
After heading operations in the Permian and San Juan Basinsat Odessa, Texas, from 1988-91, Åm became the first Norwegian president and managing director for Phillips Petroleum Norway.
That put him in charge of 3 000 employees in the GEA as well as in Tananger, Oslo, Teesside and Emden. This was when a redevelopment of Ekofisk was planned, along with the future cessation and removal of old platforms.[REMOVE]Fotnote: https://www.fylkesmannen.no/globalassets/fm-rogaland/dokument-fmro/felles-og-leiing/brev-og-artiklar/fm-tale-til-knut-am.pdf
By 1996, Åm was back in Bartlesville – now as vice president and head of all exploration and production in Phillips. He stayed in that job until retiring in the USA during 1999.
Offices and committees
But his working life did not end there. Appointments from 1999 to 2007 include membership of the Statoil board – and many similar posts can be mentioned.
Åm has been president of the Norwegian Geological Council and the Norwegian Petroleum Society, and chair of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (now the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association).
He led the exhibition committee of the 1996 ONS oil show in Stavanger, and has chaired Bergen’s Christian Michelsen Research institute as well as the industrial council of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
In addition to chairing Hitec ASA, he has been a director of several technology companies.
Mention must also be made of the improved recovery committee appointed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with Åm as chair.This produced a report in September 2010 which presented 44 specific measures for improving the recovery factor on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).
Through his work and many appointments, Åm has been acclaimed fora combination of expertise, creativity and determination. He also demonstrated the ability to tackle the requirements of Norway as a nation as well as the industry and its employees – not least with regard to the working environment and safety in a demanding and risky offshore industry.
In retirement, Åm is an optimist – with regard to the climate as well. “I’m very concerned with nature, but believe we should extract the resources it’s given us,” he told Otium in 2016.
“Norway could have a long and good future in the oil and gas industry if people give it more support. Exploring for new deposits is important, but we should also seek to achieve a far better recovery factor from both new and existing fields.”
“You can naturally concentrate on life’s negative aspects. Then everything’s simply awful. I think you’ll be a far happier person if you prefer to see the positive side of life. I call that self-motivation. We need more of that in the energy sector.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: https://api.optimum.no/sites/default/files/PDF/optimum-magasinet-2016.pdf
Published 21. October 2019 • Updated 21. October 2019
Kjersti Melberg, Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Based on an interview with Kristensen on 12 September 2019.
More than forty-five years of service on Ekofisk underpin Knut Ove Kristensen’s status as a pioneering leader on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). His involvement began in 1974 when he switched from a career at sea to become a process technician for Phillips Petroleum.
— Knut Ove Kristensen in conversation with process apprentice Fredrik Svindland Theissen (left) and operations manager Siri Friestad. Photo: ConocoPhillips
Early promotion and trust followed, and he served as an offshore installation manager (OIM) for more than 33 years in the Greater Ekofisk Area.
Kristensen recalls that he was a committed young man in the early 1970s – an open, curious and plain-speaking person who was not afraid to criticise health, safety and environmental (HSE) conditions.
The working style he encountered offshore suited him well, ready as he was to speak his mind. “I’ve undoubtedly been a loud-mouth. I’m used to having zealous people in the Family With grand-parents and a father who served as mayors, which is perhaps why I don’t quite know when to keep quiet.”
Thinking back to working conditions when he started in petroleum industry, he recalls living on Gulftide, Norway’s first production facility, and says it was fascinating.
“This was an old jack-up rig, with the helideck installed on planks. We were four to a cabin, and things were pretty shabby. Primitive conditions prevailed, to put it mildly.”
The workplace at the time was characterised by the presence of the Americans, and confusions frequently arose between them and those who were not particularly good at English.
“It was very unusual,” reflects Kristensen. “We were trained up by the Americans, of course – they were the ones who knew about this business.There were a lot of misunderstandings among the Norwegians, people who pretended to understand the messages they were given about what jobs to do. Both serious and funny situations occured. Those of us who’d been to sea undoubtedly had an advantage in that we knew the language a bit better. The rest were fishermen and smallholders and ordinary people from the Districts in Western Norway who didn’t speak much English. Offshore terminology wasn’t easy for people who didn’t have the language.”
He quickly grasped the ethos in this working environment. “The Americans often only gave you one chance. If you showed that you could cope withyour job, you won trust, new opportunities and more responsibility.”
Given his background in the Norwegian merchant marine, however, Kristensen reacted negatively to a number of the conditions which prevailed at the time.“I was one of the youngest then, and that wasn’t always easy because there were a number of older and more experienced people who felt they had a ‘monopoly of brains’,” he comments. “And quite a lot were pushy.“Working conditions weren’t orderly, with proper employmentcontracts like I was used to from my time at sea thanks to the Norwegian Seamen’s Union – unionisation and the like.”
He adds that he is grateful for everything he learned from the Americans, but that they at the time were not particularly keen on unions and the Norwegian concept of collaboration between employers and employees.“They thought it was enough to enter into agreements on a man–to–man basis or with the company, and saw no need to organise this via trade unions.”
Given his views, it is not surprising that he became involved at an early stage with the Ekofisk Committee by serving as secretary to Øyvind Krokvik, who was first head of this union.
Kristensen explains that he has been committed throughout his career to involvement and worker participation and to good collaboration between unions, the safety service and management.That was particularly important during the early years of the petroleum industry on the NCS, he emphasises. His experience of union work accompanied him into various senior posts on Ekofisk.
With a gleamin his eye, he says the following about his promotion: “Acquiring managerial responsibility early on may have had something to do with my involvement with the union.“Putting in place systems for worker participation and collaboration was particularly important in the early years of Norway’s offshore industry.
“I played a part in establishing the parameters which govern industrial relations out on the field today, with unions and the safety delegate service.
I became the country’s youngest OIM at the age of 24, and served as a manager out there for 41 years.
They may have thought ‘he’s more trouble than we need, so we’ll just promote him up and then be quit him’.”
Kristensen reports that he has been preoccupied throughout his managerial career with ensuring that “things are genuine” – that a manager must understand and personally be part of “the home team”.He explains that as the ability to understand a position from the standpoint of the various parties involved, and adds that he has thrived offshore with a living and working community.This he defines as one “where you get close to people, where everyone is seen and heard, and where they understand that they play an important role in reaching a common goal”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Pionèr, ONS 2018: 8.
It did not take him long to learn how to adjust his management style to the offshore environment, but admits that this approach has developed over the years.“The leadership culture which dominated on the platforms during the early years undoubtedly influenced me a bit. I was probably very inflexible and saw things in black-and-white, but have become more judicious and considered over time.
“Nobody left my office earlier in any doubt about what I meant. I thought that saved a lot of time. But I can’t have been too bad, or I wouldn’t have held down the job for so long.”
Kristensen’s long service makes him uniqueon Ekofisk, and he has thought a lot about management. His expressed strategy has been to get people on side over HSE through commitment and integrity – and without any “second agenda”.
“Working in the Ekofisk Complex with 600-700 people is an unusual experience,” he observes. “I held the same job as the man in charge for 20 years. “That means you’re ‘on stage’ the whole time, and attend 10-12 HSE meetings every week. You’ve got to get people committed, drive a doctrine and sell a message.”This involves getting what people have to concentrate onimplanted in their hearts and minds so they can contribute to their own safety and that of others, he explains.
“You must be genuine, and your own integrity must be order. You have to build trust, and not least display respect for your audience.”
“What’s been a powerful help for me is that I’m on the home team. I’ve been a skilled worker myself and have been through most things.”
Kristensen emphasises several times that he regarded the unions, their elected officers and the safety delegates as a resource in this work.
“The tripartite collaboration pursued in the petroleum industry between government, companies and unions functions very well,” he concludes.“This is about informing and involving people, and ensuring that decisions aren’t taken over their heads. Our company has achieved that in a positive way.”
“The fact that Ekofisk is a mature field and ConocoPhillips is a mature company also has something to do with it. Cooperation with the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and other authorities is also very good.”
Kristensen denies that union-management collaboration has become more strained during the downturns experienced by the petroleum industry.“Strained and strained – we must adjust to external conditions and try to protect thejobs needed tosafeguard the industry. But nobody’s ever been made redundant by this company. That’s worthy of respect. “
“Downsizing has been solved with severance packages. People have often been given early retirement. From that perspective, it’s been a privilege to work for an operator company.”
After almost 46 years with the company, Kristensen’s commitment to continuous improvement, good safety and high production regularity is as strong as ever.Recognising that substantial progress has been made in the HSE area over the years he has worked in the industry, he affirms that this issue is closest to his heart.
“We’ve staked out the path as we’ve advanced. We don’t accept incidents and accidents. We take a completely different approach to risk today. Accidents which do occur are used for all they’re worth in aneffort to say to ourselves: ‘this has actually happened, but it’s our duty to learn from it’.”
Kristensen has personally experienced accidents and injuries at close hand, and thereby knows the importance of preventive safety work to protect people, the environment and equipment.
He will never forget some incidents – and immediately mentions the Alexander L Kielland disaster in 1980 With 123 casualties. An article in local daily Stavanger Aftenblad as recently as 2012, with photos of all those who have died on duty on the NCS since 1966, made a big impression on him.
Britain’s Piper Alpha explosion in 1988, when 169 people were killed, is another major incident he recalls. His conclusion is that the petroleum sector has not been a Promised Land for all.
The former OIM proudly mentions a number of HSE improvements which have partlybeen the result of technological advances in the industry during his time.But he warns about hazards which still exist, such as vessels drifting out of control. A well-known incident on New Year’s Eve in 2015 made a particularly strong impression on him.
A 150000 tons, unmanned barge had come loose and was threatening to collide with installations on Ekofisk. Several hundred workers from this field and neighbouring Valhall were flown to safety and production was shut down.The barge passed the platforms at a distance of about one nautical mile, but Kristensen found the actual incident and the threat it posed frightening.
“Drifting vessels which come loose in rough weather, which can get pretty challenging out there, are perhaps the biggest hazard we now face. Luckily we have good procedures to handle such challenges.”
Such incidents and near-misses are regarded by Kristensen as a reminder that the petroleum industry is under an obligation to learn the necessary lessons.He points to the potential for learning from other industries, and emphasises the good collaboration which prevails across the company. Mechanical handling provides a good example, he says.
“Things can go terribly wrong. After fatal accidents in the 2000s, we established a work group which held monthly meetings. I took part as technical manager for these facilities.We involved everyone in the logistics chain on land, at the base and on the platforms. That attracted so much attention and such great improvements that we’ve now managed to prevent virtually all undesirable conditions in this area.”
Despite good systems and routines, colleagues on the installations are Kristensen’s most important reminder of the responsibility he has had as an OIM on Ekofisk.
“Experiences frommy early years meant that I have become particularly attentive to HSE – and I was involved in quite a lot, of course.But this mostly relates to the individual who gets injured on your watch and on your shift – in other words, the people you work with.They stood on the drill floor and worked so that the sparks flew around their ears. Having only two-three fingers used to confer ‘status’.”
He notes that improvements have a lot to do with technological progress. Much risk has been eliminated by automating a great deal of the work which used to be done manually.
“But we still have more than enough opportunities to injure ourselves. This has a lot to do with awareness – being present in the real world, making sure you’re focused. That’s actually expected for 12 hours at a time.”
A respectful attitude to his big responsibilities and duties was maintained by Kristensen to his last working day. “Emergency preparedness is like being at war – you do what you’re told.But you feel it. Although we’ve trained so long at this, you’re still conscious of being responsible for several hundred lives. Taking a wrong decision could …You must act on the basis of the information you’ve got, not what you know many months later. When you tackle it, however, you get a sense of mastery at solving the problem together with an outstanding emergency response organisation on land.Ultimately, though, you’re the skipper on your own ship.”
Time to reflect
Kristensen has finally retired from ConocoPhillips, giving him time to reflect over his own commitment and lifestyle offshore as it affected him and his family.
“For my own part, I must say that it’s had a price,” he admits. “I couldn’t get involved in politics or organisations, for example. I was only at home half of the time. I followed up the kids when I was at home, of course, but never felt I could be active in associations and so on, contribute the way I’d have liked.”
He has found the transition to retirement unaccustomed in many ways. “Simply remembering that I’m not going offshore is a big change, for example.I had to deal with so many challenges right up to my last day at work that it’s been impossible to prepare anything. I ought to have thought about and planned retirement a bit better, of course, but I’ll undoubtedly find something to do when I want to.”
Published 21. October 2019 • Updated 25. October 2019
The aim of this facility – an extension to the Ekofisk South project – was to increase waterflooding on the southern flank of the Ekofisk reservoir in order to maintain oil and gas production.
An amended plan for development and operation (PDO) of Ekofisk South was approved by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy on 7 September 2017.
This involved installing a new seabed template with four water injection wells, and represented a continuation of the well-established Ekofisk production strategy based on waterflooding.[REMOVE]Fotnote: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/okt-utvinning-pa-ekofiskfeltet/id2570011/.
The template was installed in September 2017, with a technical solution similar to that used on the seabed facilities already installed – Ekofisk 2/4 VA and 2/4 VB.[REMOVE]Fotnote:Pionér, no 2, ConocoPhillips, 2018.
In addition to the structure itself, including wellheads and Xmas trees, the installation comprised control modules with umbilicals connected to the existing waterflooding system.
The 2/4 VC facility receives injection water from Eldfisk 2/7 E, while power and control signals come from Ekofisk 2/4 M. It is run from the Ekofisk 2/4 K control room.
When fully developed, overall injection capacity for this subsea installation will be 80 000 barrels per day through the four wells.
The water pipeline and umbilical to 2/4 VB were extended to 2/4 VC. Well operations on the latter began on 24 May 2018 with a view to starting injection before the end of the year.
Published 15. October 2019 • Updated 15. October 2019
by Gunleiv Hadland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The 2/4 VB subsea installation began injecting water in May 2013, three kilometres south of the Ekofisk Complex. It formed part of the Ekofisk South project approved by the Storting (parliament) in 2010.
Ekofisk 2/4 VB was a part of the Ekofisk South project
Producing May 16. 2013
Also called “Victor Bravo”
— Ekofisk 2/4 VB (Victor Bravo) lowered into the sea. Photo: Bob Bartlett/ConocoPhillips
So successful had the 2/4 VA facility proved to be that it was copied for 2/4 VB as an eight-well template, also delivered by FMC at Kongsberg.
Similarly, the wells on 2/4 VB were drilled by Maersk Innovator. The well operation department completed installation of the template, manifolds and casing for the eight subsea wells.
Seabed installations carried out by Subsea 7 comprised a five-kilometre pipeline for water from the Eldfisk Complex as well as a diver-installed T piece welded into the existing pipeline from Eldfisk 2/7 E to Ekofisk 2/4 K.
This assignment also covered laying three kilometres of umbilicals combining hydraulic lines and fibreoptic cables from 2/4 VA, so that 2/4 VB could also be remotely operated from land.
Published 23. September 2019 • Updated 7. February 2020
Confusion can easily arise over the terms used in connection with Ekofisk, where the Greater Ekofisk Area (GEA) is a collective designation for a cluster of no less than eight fields. The largest of these is Ekofisk itself.
— Older poster showing The Greater Ekofisk area. Illustration: ConocoPhillips/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Primarily located in production licence PL 018, along with Ekofisk, the other seven fields are West Ekofisk, Tor, Eldfisk, Albuskjell, Edda, Cod and Embla.
Furthermore, six of the eight – with Embla and Cod as the exception – comprise two geological formations. One is known as the Ekofisk formation, with the Tor formation as the other. See the article on sea scurf.
The graph in figure 2, which presents collective production of oil, gas and condensate over time in million standard cubic metres of oil equivalent (scm oe), shows Ekofisk’s dominant position – both historically and today.
With the exception of four years, overall output from the seven other fields has never achieved the same volume as Ekofisk’s own production.
The effect of waterflooding on Ekofisk, which got going seriously in 1987, can be clearly seen in the production curve. This rose from less than 10 million scm oe per annum to more than 20 million.
On 1 July 2019, operator ConocoPhillips submitted a plan for development and operation (PDO) which covered reopening the Tor field (Tor II).
This will involve the investment of about NOK 6 billion, with a planned production start in late 2020, and is expected to yield an estimated 10 million scm oe.