The Weekly Reflektion 42/2021

As the drive to reduce CO2 emissions receives more political attention and concerns from the public rise due to perception of more extreme weather, efforts to achieve emission targets will become more intensive. Our experience is that more focus in one area can lead to less focus in other areas.

The European Green Deal and polices against climate change

Will the focus on reduction in CO2 emissions have a positive or negative influence on Major Accident prevention?

A few years ago, the focus in the board rooms of industrial companies, including those in the petroleum industry, was the bottom line and financial performance. There was a gradual change to focus on safety and the assurance of the health and well being of the people working in the company and the people that were exposed to the risks from the company’s operation. Today it is Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) often associated with sustainability. The people in the board rooms are concerned about environmental impact and in particular reduction of CO2 emissions. Industrial companies need to be ambitious and have plans in place to reduce emissions or offset these emissions against other activities. Failure to achieve the ambitions can lead to investors pulling out and finding other companies to invest in.

Will the measures put in place to reduce COemissions lead to reduction in Major Accident risk? Reduction in leaks of hydrocarbon will of course reduce CO2 equivalent emissions and hence reduce Major Accident risk. The concern that we in Reflekt have is that the extreme focus on emission reduction and alternative energy production and transport will be at the cost of Major Accident prevention. The managements enthusiasm for changes that lead to decrease in CO2 emissions may come at the cost of inadequate management of change that does not systematically review the proposed changes.

At the Safety Forum annual conference in Stavanger in September Halvor Eriksen from SAFE made a presentation on Working Environment challenges in the ‘Green Change’. Halvor showed several examples of measures to reduce emissions that potentially increased the safety and working environment risks. One of these was the use of urea in Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) in motor exhaust systems to reduce NOx emissions. The SCR process is designed to reduce the NOx emissions to nitrogen and water. The process can also produce complex nitrogen compounds for example isocyanic acid (HNCO) that poses a health risk to the lungs. The use of large batteries on offshore drilling rigs to optimize diesel power generation and reduce emissions is another example. Batteries with a capacity of 8 MW are used today. The batteries may be subjected to thermal runaway in fire and explosion scenarios leading to significant escalation of the incident. Fighting fire associated with lithium batteries is particularly challenging due to the reaction between the firewater and the lithium. 

Sometimes companies need to change their priorities due to internal and/or external factors. The change in priorities can lead to a change in the way the company carries out its activities. These changes need to be managed properly. Any implemented changes should not lead to a reduction in safety and deterioration in the working environment and shall not increase the risk of a Major Accident. In this changing world are you getting it right?

Reflekt AS