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One dead as storms buffet North Sea rigs

Stormy weather buffeting the North Sea has brought havoc to oilfields with Norway’s Statoil reporting one man dead when a giant wave hit a rig and hundreds of workers evacuated after a huge barge broke its moorings and began drifting.

Statoil said a 53-year-old Norwegian died on Wednesday when a huge wave hit a rig at its Troll oilfield.

“Two other people were injured and are receiving medical treatment ashore. The rig is now heading to shore under its own power, while evacuation takes place,” Statoil said in a statement.

There were no immediate details on the condition of the two injured men.

Stormy weather in the area has seen waves topping 15 metres (50 feet).

Thursday morning saw more than 300 oil workers evacuated after a huge barge broke its moorings and began drifting towards the Valhall and Ekofisk oilfields run by British energy giant BP and US multinational ConocoPhillips.

The barge come adrift in British waters and had moved to within 14 nautical miles of Valhall, according to Norway’s search and rescue authority cited by Norway’s NTB news agency.

Valhall, whose production was temporarily halted, is 330 kilometres (about 200 miles) southwest of the Norwegian port city of Stavanger.

“The barge has changed course and is headed straight for Valhall,” BP Norway spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo told AFP.

“We hope we shall be able to moor it,” he added after a tug was sent out in pursuit to immobilise it — a precarious operation given the stormy conditions.

BP evacuated about 150 staff by helicopter to neighbouring oil rigs and a further 71 were being transferred from the Ekofisk field operated by ConocoPhillips, which itself evacuated 145 staff.

BP has a 36-percent stake in Valhall, where production came on stream in 1982, with the remainder held by the Norwegian subsidy of US firm Hess Corporation.

Average production this year stood at 39,000 barrels a day. The field has estimated reserves of 248.1 million barrels of oil and 6.95 billion cubic metres (245 billion cubic feet) of gas.



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