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Piper Alpha Disaster – Anniversary Of Tragedy In The North Sea

Piper Alpha Disaster – Anniversary Of Tragedy In The North Sea

John Konrad
Total Views: 886
July 14, 2011

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.


Piper Alpha Video



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:


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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