One dead as storms buffet North Sea rigs

31st December 2015, Comments 0 comments

Stormy weather buffeting the North Sea has brought havoc to oilfields with one man on Thursday reported killed by a giant wave hitting a Statoil rig, and hundreds of workers evacuated after a huge barge broke its moorings and began drifting.

Oil services provider Aker Solutions said one of its employees, a 53-year-old Norwegian, died on Wednesday when a huge wave hit a rig, operated for Statoil by COSL, a China Oilfield Services subsidiary, at the Troll oilfield.

"Aker Solutions can confirm one of its employees succumbed to injuries (sustained) when a huge wave hit the COSL Innovator platform," it said.

"Two other people were injured and are receiving medical treatment ashore. The rig is now heading to shore under its own power, while evacuation takes place," Statoil added in a separate statement, adding that the rig's accommodation area had suffered damage.

There were no immediate details on the condition of the two injured men.

Stormy weather in the area has seen waves topping 15 metres (50 feet).

Thursday morning saw almost 400 oil workers evacuated after a huge barge broke its moorings and began drifting towards the Valhall and Ekofisk oilfields run by British energy giant BP and US multinational ConocoPhillips.

The barge came adrift in British waters and had moved to within 14 nautical miles of Valhall, according to Norway's search and rescue authority cited by Norway's NTB news agency.

Valhall, whose production was temporarily halted, is 330 kilometres (about 200 miles) southwest of the Norwegian port city of Stavanger.

"The barge has changed course and is headed straight for Valhall," BP Norway spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo told AFP.

"We hope we shall be able to moor it," he added after a tug was sent out in pursuit to immobilise it -- a precarious operation given the stormy conditions.

Around 1130 GMT Geirmo said the barge had floated past around one kilometre from the evacuated platforms.

"The barge passed some 1,000 metres from Valhall's offshore installations and is now headed for waters where there is no danger," Geirmo told AFP.

Saying any threat from the barge to facilities in the area was minimal he added that "the employees will progressively return to the platforms -- the situation is returning to normal."

BP earlier had evacuated about 150 staff by helicopter to neighbouring oil rigs and a further 71 were being transferred from the Ekofisk field operated by ConocoPhillips, which itself evacuated 145 staff.

BP has a 36-percent stake in Valhall, where production came on stream in 1982, with the remainder held by the Norwegian subsidy of US firm Hess Corporation.

Average production this year stood at 39,000 barrels a day. The field has estimated reserves of 248.1 million barrels of oil and 6.95 billion cubic metres (245 billion cubic feet) of gas.

© 2015 AFP

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