Piper Alpha Fire

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.

The Amazing site Oil Rig Disasters writes about the Piper Alpha. they tell us:

Piper Alpha MemorialOn 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.

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Piper Alpha Video

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj65cDmaEs0&eurl=[/youtube]

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Piper Alpha Photos

Piper Alpha Before the Fire
The Piper Alpha, as seen from a crew change helicopter, before the fire started.

The Piper Alpha after the fire.
All that remains of the oil platform after the devastating fire burns out.

The Piper Alpha with fire in full blaze.
The fire in full blaze. Imagine the heat that was generated.

Lifeboats on fire
A simulation of the survivability of the Piper Alpha’s Lifeboats.

Piper Alpha Ablaze at Night
The Blaze lit the night sky for miles in every direction.

Video Links:

Links:

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.

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  • john w. sabourn

    Read your article on Piper A, as also many others, this being the twentieth anniversary.My own views on same are very different. As I was Master of the Siver Pit at time of disaster, I can point out a few salient facts, especially as now retired and have no need of employment from so called shipowners. A lot has been said about the defincies of the Silver Pit by myself included, however this dated vessel did the job at the time. One of the critical factors in such a case recurring is manpower, can you imagine trying to transfer 229 men by one boat to the vessel, I know that in an ideal situation this would be done by the lifeboats of the rig, this was not an ideal situation. I was back at sea 2 week after the diasaster, and thereafter worked for various companys, one a well known Company were going to send be back up to Lerwick to rejoin a vessel, on asking them for a crew list, the complement consisted of one seaman (AB), when I said this was insufficient regarding manning of FRCs I was told the ship complied with the manning scale and I had to do, I told them to stick their job. Some people never learn, also the D.O.T to my way of thinking is at fault, no effort was put into the manning of so called specialized vessels. I really think that it is still only a money making opportunity between the oil companies and the shipowners. That same vessel my friend the Ch.Eng (now deceased) did go back and join, on the way out to rig they had an E.R. fire caused by oil in the bilges and broken lamps, the company would not have the bilges pumped ashore or broken glasses repaired. The Chief set of the C02 system, and ship limped back into Lerwick on one engine. He was told by Supt. if he took blame they would give him a good reference. It was fortuanate that I was again employed so managed to take him with me on my vessel. My point is dont be fooled by these gestures made by various companies and oil companies re. safety. The biggest safety factor is manpower, it is people who save lives, and if you dont have the numbers, all the fancy gear in the world is not going to help them. John Sabourn

  • john w. sabourn

    Read your article on Piper A, as also many others, this being the twentieth anniversary.My own views on same are very different. As I was Master of the Siver Pit at time of disaster, I can point out a few salient facts, especially as now retired and have no need of employment from so called shipowners. A lot has been said about the defincies of the Silver Pit by myself included, however this dated vessel did the job at the time. One of the critical factors in such a case recurring is manpower, can you imagine trying to transfer 229 men by one boat to the vessel, I know that in an ideal situation this would be done by the lifeboats of the rig, this was not an ideal situation. I was back at sea 2 week after the diasaster, and thereafter worked for various companys, one a well known Company were going to send be back up to Lerwick to rejoin a vessel, on asking them for a crew list, the complement consisted of one seaman (AB), when I said this was insufficient regarding manning of FRCs I was told the ship complied with the manning scale and I had to do, I told them to stick their job. Some people never learn, also the D.O.T to my way of thinking is at fault, no effort was put into the manning of so called specialized vessels. I really think that it is still only a money making opportunity between the oil companies and the shipowners. That same vessel my friend the Ch.Eng (now deceased) did go back and join, on the way out to rig they had an E.R. fire caused by oil in the bilges and broken lamps, the company would not have the bilges pumped ashore or broken glasses repaired. The Chief set of the C02 system, and ship limped back into Lerwick on one engine. He was told by Supt. if he took blame they would give him a good reference. It was fortuanate that I was again employed so managed to take him with me on my vessel. My point is dont be fooled by these gestures made by various companies and oil companies re. safety. The biggest safety factor is manpower, it is people who save lives, and if you dont have the numbers, all the fancy gear in the world is not going to help them. John Sabourn

  • Franklin

    John,

    Unfortunately the manning certificates remain a sore point. The Marshall Islands flags my drillship and while on location the Minimum manning certificate does not even require a captain. This is a 300M vessel! We have to be underway for more than 72 hours before a Chief Mate is requied. Luckily the company I work for mans with a full compliment of seafarers. Will they continue to do so after the fleet size doubles in the next 4 years? And, yes, they do go without a full compliment when someone takes emergency leave or quits.

    A sad state indeed.

  • Franklin

    John,

    Unfortunately the manning certificates remain a sore point. The Marshall Islands flags my drillship and while on location the Minimum manning certificate does not even require a captain. This is a 300M vessel! We have to be underway for more than 72 hours before a Chief Mate is requied. Luckily the company I work for mans with a full compliment of seafarers. Will they continue to do so after the fleet size doubles in the next 4 years? And, yes, they do go without a full compliment when someone takes emergency leave or quits.

    A sad state indeed.

  • bakekang

    pak u all

  • bakekang

    pak u all

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  • http://www.meaincorporated.com/ gate valves

    very dramatic pictures. great blog.

  • http://www.meaincorporated.com/ gate valves

    very dramatic pictures. great blog.

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