Prevention of hydrocarbon (HC) leaks is important; they are the most critical precursor events that may lead to major accidents, such as in the case of Piper Alpha. The number of HC leaks on offshore production installations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf peaked just after year 2000, with more than 40 leaks per year with initial rate above 0.1 kg/s. The Norwegian Oil and Gas Association (Norwegian Oil and Gas) conducted a reduction project from 2003 until 2008, which resulted in ten HC leaks above 0.1 kg/s in 2007. The number of leaks increased in the years after 2007, and was in average 15 in the period 2008–2010, without any significant increase in the number of installations. Norwegian Oil and Gas initiated a new project early in 2011 in order to reduce the number of HC leaks further. The initiative will be completed at the end of 2013, but has already started to show promising results. A study performed by the project concludes that more than 50% of the leaks are associated with failure of operational barriers during human intervention into the process systems. Human and organizational factors are dominating with respect to circumstances and root causes. This paper presents the HC leak reduction project, the rationale behind it and its main activities, which are aimed at reflecting the operational challenges. The activities tie in closely with the results from the analysis of the leaks during the period 2008 to 2011. Verification of critical activities is the single operational barrier that has failed most commonly. The paper also discusses the risk reduction principles in a barrier context, with emphasis on operational barriers, as well as some of the challenges that the work is faced with.

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