After 40 years of oil and gas production on the UK continental shelf, more than half of fixed platforms have exceeded their original design life or soon will.

Health and Safety Executive head of offshore safety, Steve Walker, launched the new inspection programme at a seminar for senior industry managers, unions and policy makers in Aberdeen just days after the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was finally plugged.

He said: “The issue of ageing installations is not a new one, and we have been working with the industry to address the risks for several years.

“We are very clear that if installations are going to be used beyond their original anticipated design life then operators need to look to the future and anticipate inevitable consequences. This is a priority for us.

“Ageing offshore installations run the risk of deterioration, which can have serious consequences for installation and asset integrity.

“This is not acceptable. The safety of 28,000 workers is dependent on systems and structures being in good working order now and in the future.

“We will be seeking evidence and reassurance that operators are properly considering ageing and life extension as a key and distinct part of their asset integrity management plans.

“The industry and unions are fully behind this programme. They appreciate that well maintained, safe and efficient plant and equipment are vital to ensure the long term future of the UK offshore oil and gas industry.”

Many platforms are expected to keep running for the foreseeable future and inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will inspect safety management plans to ensure ageing is taken into account.

The programme will run until September 2013.

David Gibbs

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