Shell bringing Brent Charlie back online following leak

Shell is bringing production back online at one of its flagship North Sea installations following a safety alert.

Non-essential workers were downmanned from the supermajor’s Brent Charlie platform following the suspected release back on May 19.

At the time Shell said production has been halted and that the source of the leak had been “isolated”.

Shell confirmed this morning that gradual restart of production on Brent Charlie occurred over the weekend of August 26 – nearly 100 days later.

A spokesman for the company said production is gradually increasing on the platform as it is brought back online.

The Brent field has been in production since the early 1970s and is one of the oldest and most prolific North Sea discoveries.

The Brent Charlie was the last of four platforms installed in the area, arriving in 1978.

Shell was served with a prohibition notice earlier this year due to the potential for “fire and explosion” in relation to the May leak.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the oil giant had failed to act under the Offshore Prevention of Fire regulations.

The watchdog said the breach related to the possibility of an uncontrolled release of flammable or explosive hydrocarbons from safety critical pipework in the platform’s Column Four leg.

During the May incident, platform personnel were brought to muster, as is standard practice. All 176 workers were safely accounted for and no injuries were reported.

Shell was hit with a prohibition notice earlier this year over safety concerns on the same platform.

HSE said Shell had failed to put appropriate controls in place to protect workers from dangerous gases in one of the platform’s legs.

The watchdog said the company had identified the risks of exposure to hydrogen sulphide and hydrocarbon gas while accessing the column C1 leg.

But Shell did not adequately describe how control measures would be “organised, controlled, monitored or reviewed”, according to HSE.

The prohibition notice was served early in February.

Prohibition notices dictate that work activity in a certain area or on a particular process must stop immediately.

The decommissioning of Brent field, which has produced oil for 40 years, is one of the most complex engineering projects of its kind and is expected to take a decade to complete.

Shell floated the idea of leaving the legs of three of the four platforms in place on the seabed earlier this year.

The field has more than 140 wells, 64 storage shells and 28 pipelines.

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