LONDON, June 13 (Reuters) - Britain's oil industry is getting safer, even taking into account last year's gas leak at the Elgin field, industry body Oil & Gas UK said.
The number of reportable hydrocarbon releases fell 48 percent over three years, in line with a target set in 2010, and the injury rate amongst workers also fell, according to a report published by industry body Oil & Gas UK on Thursday.
'I think it (the report) represents a considerable improvement in the industry overall, despite that (Elgin) incident occurring,' Oil & Gas UK's health and safety director Robert Paterson said in a telephone interview.
A well at the Elgin field in the North Sea, operated by French oil major Total, started to leak gas in March 2012 and was not brought under control until May 2012. Production at the field was not restarted until earlier this year.
The report only measures the number of leaks, rather than the volumes leaked. There were 97 reportable hydrocarbon releases in Britain in the 2012-13 period compared with 161 in 2010-2011.
Paterson said that Elgin would have been much larger in volume terms than the other leaks counted, although he said the quantities which spewed into the sea had not yet been published.
The fact that there was no fire and no injuries at the Elgin incident was an indication of the high levels of safety in the North Sea, he said, 25 years after the Piper Alpha explosion, one of the world's worst offshore disasters, killed 167 people.
British authorities are still investigating the Elgin leak and Paterson said that the lessons from the incident were in the process of being learnt.
The huge challenge for safety in the North Sea in the future is ensuring that ageing pipelines and platforms, some which have been in place since the 1970s, were properly maintained, Paterson said.
'It's not an age issue, it's about how well they're maintained. It's about making sure they remain fit for purpose. It's a well-managed risk,' he said.
The report also said that the performance standard which measures non-compliance relating to safety critical equipment hit an all-time low, and was 85 percent lower than in 2008.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Louise Heavens) Keywords: NORTHSEA/SAFETY
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(+44 20 7542 1109)(Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. All rights reserved.
The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.