Esso rejects claims of standards slipping

EXXONMOBIL has strenuously rejected claims that it is letting safety standards slip at its offshore operations.

The claims on a union-run Facebook page include that the oil giant is well behind in its maintenance schedule, with an offshore supply vessel out of service despite it being an integral part of ExxonMobil offshore safety.

The claims also include that diesel and glycol required to run offshore platforms safely are running low without a vessel to replenish stock, and that the oil giant is “demanning offshore platforms of non-essential personnel”.

ExxonMobil has confirmed that on September 13 a third party’s vessel that supports Gippsland Basin Joint Venture operations experienced “an unplanned maintenance event” and was taken offline for repairs.

But a spokesman denied the incident had created a safety risk.

“We have worked with third parties to provide alternative measures to ensure ongoing operations,” he said.

“There is no risk to the health and safety of personnel and following contingency planning, there is no anticipated impact to gas supply.

“A number of non-essential work activities have been deferred until we return to business as usual operations.

“The Far Supplier is one of several transport options that support our offshore platforms.”

The union accusations come two months after a Senate inquiry into worker safety in the offshore petroleum industry heard that the casualisation of the workforce was making it more difficult for staff to report safety concerns.

Unions then raised allegations over the effectiveness of the offshore petroleum regulator to keep workers safe, labelling the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) a “toothless tiger”.

In 2015, Esso Australia — the Australian affiliate of ExxonMobil — also had to defend its safety record after a fire on one of its oil and gas platforms in Bass Strait.

At the time, unions raised concerns that the fire, which caused an emergency evacuation of the platform and took nine hours to control, could be linked to a reduction in maintenance offshore.

This latest headache for ExxonMobil comes just days before the 20-year anniversary of the tragic Longford Gas Plants fire that killed two workers and injured many others.