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UPDATE 1-Norway oil workers raise safety concerns after weekend incidents
October 17, 2016 / 12:12 PM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Norway oil workers raise safety concerns after weekend incidents

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(Adds unions, safety watchdog, background)

By Stine Jacobsen

OSLO, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Norway's oil workers said on Monday three unrelated incidents at Statoil-operated oil and gas fields over the weekend could be a sign that cost cutting in the industry is compromising safety.

On Saturday, Statoil experienced a problem with well pressure on a North Sea drilling rig at the Troll gas field. On Sunday the state-controlled oil major halted output from its Statfjord A and Gullfaks A platforms due to a fire and a gas leak, respectively.

"We are definitely concerned by this weekend's incidents ... We have long been emphasizing that we are concerned over cost cuts on maintenance and staff," the leader of the SAFE union, Hilde-Marit Rysst, told Reuters.

As falling oil prices have forced companies to cut spending, unions and Norway's safety watchdog have warned cost cutting could affect safety.

"It is obvious that when something like this happens, you consider whether you have gone too far in the cost cutting," the leader of the Industri Energi union, Leif Sande, told Reuters.

Both union leaders said it was too early to say whether the three incidents were connected to cost cutting and that they would await investigations into the incidents.

Nobody was injured in the incidents. Production at Gullfaks A restarted late on Sunday, Statoil said. It was unclear when production at Statfjord A would resume.

"At a time of change and restructuring, we put great emphasis on controlling risks," a Statoil spokesman said, adding the company would investigate the incidents and it was too early to identify the possible causes.

The Norwegian oil safety watchdog said it had launched an investigation into the fire on the Statfjord A platform and into the well control incident on the Songa Endurance rig on the Troll field. It was unclear whether it would also launch an investigation into the gas leak at Gullfaks.

"It is very difficult to say at this point in time whether there is a connection between these serious incidents and the cost cuts in the industry. We will assess these tree incidents against this issue," said a spokeswoman for Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority.

The risk of accidents in Norway's oil industry rose last year after reaching record lows in 2014, a survey by the Nordic country's safety watchdog showed earlier this year. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Potter)

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