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Leak at BP platform could have caused "major accident"

A BP petrol station sign is seen at dawn in west London October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A BP petrol station sign is seen at dawn in west London October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Nerijus Adomaitis

OSLO (Reuters) - Oil major BP must review the way it handles risk and maintenance at its offshore oil platforms in Norway following a leak at a North Sea platform that could have caused a major accident, Norway's oil safety watchdog said on Monday.

Last September some 1,600 kilogram's of gas and 125 barrels of oil leaked from the production platform at the Ula field in the Norwegian section of the North Sea, a quantity considered significant by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.

"The incident had the potential to become a major accident, with the risk that a number of lives might have been lost and substantial material damage caused," the agency said on Monday.

The watchdog was concerned by the incident as BP had already been told to improve the way it handles maintenance at ageing platforms following a fire at the Valhall field in the North Sea in 2011.

The leak at Ula was caused by the fracturing of the bolts holding together a valve in a separator outlet. Production was shut for 67 days. No one was injured.

"The investigation has identified a number of serious breaches of the regulations, related in part to BP's management system for activities (off Norway)," the PSA said. "Deficiencies still exist in the maintenance system."

BP said it was addressing the issues raised by the watchdog. "The findings closely match BP's own investigation and work has already started to address the issues raised and to fully comply with the orders by the end of 2013," said Jan Erik Geirmo, a spokesman for BP Norway.

Ula is estimated to hold 98.8 million barrels of recoverable oil reserves, according to data from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. BP owns 80 percent of the field and is the operator. Denmark's DONG Energy holds 20 percent.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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