This week marks the 23th anniversary of the worst offshore oil disaster in history.
The Piper Alpha was a North Sea oil production platform operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd. It accounted for around ten per cent of the oil and gas production from the North Sea at the time. The platform began production in 1976 first as an oil platform and then later converted to gas production. An explosion and resulting fire destroyed it on July 6, 1988, killing 167 men. Total insured loss was $ 3.4 billion. While the environmental damage was not as severe as the loss of the Deepwater Horizon, it remains world’s worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost.
On 06 July 1988, work began on one of two condensate-injection pumps, designated A and B, which were used to compress gas on the platform prior to transport of the gas to Flotta. A pressure safety valve was removed from compressor A for recalibration and re-certification and two blind flanges were fitted onto the open pipework. The dayshift crew then finished for the day.
During the evening of 06 July, pump B tripped and the nightshift crew decided that pump A should be brought back into service. Once the pump was operational, gas condensate leaked from the two blind flanges and, at around 2200 hours, the gas ignited and exploded, causing fires and damage to other areas with the further release of gas and oil. Some twenty minutes later, the Tartan gas riser failed and a second major explosion occurred followed by widespread fire. Fifty minutes later, at around 2250 hours, the MCP-01 gas riser failed resulting in a third major explosion. Further explosions then ensued, followed by the eventual structural collapse of a significant proportion of the installation.
Piper Alpha Video
Piper Alpha Photos
- Piper Alpha Tribute Video
- Video animation of Piper Alpha Explosion
- “My Duke of Edinburgh” Movie Trailer
- 10 Deadliest Offshore Accidents
- BBC Report on this incident.
- Memories of the men who died
- UK Study on preventing large shipboard explosions
- Fire and Blast Information Group: Piper Alpha
Modern Day Oil Rig Tragedy – Gulf Of Mexico
For a look at a discussion on the cause and effect of the Deepwater Horizon – Gulf Of Mexico Oil Rig Tragedy and the blog post “Deepwater Horizon Explosion – Breaking News From The Gulf Of Mexico” for a real time look at the events behind a modern oil rig explosion & fire.