What Caused the Giant Piper Alpha Oil Rig Explosion?
Nov 07, · What Caused the Giant Piper Alpha Oil Rig Explosion? At 14, tons and times the height of the Statue of Liberty, the Piper Alpha oil rig was one of the largest in the world. Oct 20, · At 14, tons and times the height of the Statue of Liberty, the Piper Alpha oil rig was one of the largest in the world. But on July 6, , the entir.
THE Piper Alpha tragedy claimed lives after a gas leak caused the oil production platform to explode in a massive ball of flames. The death toll included two crewmen of a rescue vessel. By Dailyrecord. Join thousands of others in getting the stories that matter to you sent straight to your inbox. Invalid Email Something went wrong, please try again later. Subscribe When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy What caused piper alpha disaster. Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice.
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The Piper Alpha disaster consisted of four explosions: an initial gas release explosion and three subsequent pipeline explosions. At every point in the disaster, there were opportunities for mitigation that were not taken. Lessons Learned (across industries) As with most large incidents, this is a complex issue with many different causes. The accident that occurred on board the offshore platform Piper Alpha in July killed people and cost billions of dollars in property damage. It was caused by a massive fire, which was not the result of an unpredictable “act of God” but of an accumulation of errors and ques- tionable decisions. Aug 18, · Lessons From the Columbia Disaster; Self evaluation tool: Key lessons from the Columbia Shuttle disaster; Instructions for using the Presentation; Conducting An Organizational Culture Workshop; Safety Culture: “What Is At Stake” Incident Summary: Columbia Case History; Incident Summary: Challenger Case History; Incident Summary: Piper Alpha.
It started production in and became one of the largest producers of oil in the North Sea. Later it was converted to produce and gather gas as well as oil. In , Piper Alpha endured a gas leak with the subsequent fire and explosion reducing her to a wreck, ending up on the bottom of the North Sea.
As the disaster unfolds, we will see how the Piper, Tartan, and Claymore platforms were linked. To start out, please refer to the image below. It shows the locations of the platforms in the North Sea with their associated gas and oil terminals.
It pumped processed crude oil to Flotta Terminal on the Island of Orkney. Piper Alpha then became a hub, processing its own gas, collecting gas from the Tartan, and pumping this gas onto the MCP Platform. A gas pipeline was also installed linking Piper with Claymore, receiving and supplying gas to Claymore as required for gas-lift purposes as shown in the images below. High pressure condensate pumps are an integral part of the gas processing system on offshore platforms.
The Piper had two of these pumps, which were identified as condensates pumps A and B. As well as being exported to MCP, Piper also used the processed gas to fuel the main power generators that supplied the electricity to the platform. Two blanks machined blind flanges were bolted to the inlet and outlet flanges, in place of the removed PSV, as shown below.
This notes the identity and location of the component that the work is to be carried out on, along with mechanical and electrical isolations in place such as valves shut, electric motors isolated, etc. It is an extensive, normally foolproof safety document kept in the control room.
Once the component is back into service, the PTW is signed off and filed for future reference. Just before 10 PM that night, condensate pump B tripped and could not be restarted. The control room engineer checked the permit to work boxes, but did not find the one for condensate pump A. So upon finding no PTW, he started pump A. The pressure in the line built up, and gas escaped between the blind flanges and the pump pipework. The escaping gas ignited and exploded. This was the main and initial cause of the Piper Alpha incident.
The escaping gas triggered numerous gas alarms in the control room, but before the operator could respond to these alarms, a massive explosion disintegrated the firewalls of gas module C. Because Piper was originally designed for oil, firewalls, and not blast walls, were installed between modules. This caused many projectiles to be flung at great velocity and force into condensate and oil pipelines.
These penetrated the piping, adding both oil and gas to the fire creating thick black smoke and toxic fumes to the area and below C module. The control room was badly damaged in the explosion, but the operator managed to punch the emergency shutdown button that effectively shut of the oil and gas supplies to the platform. This action should have been sufficient to kill the fire, but gas was still being supplied from Claymore and Tartan, and would continue for some time, despite the fire on Piper being visible from both these platforms.
This was a standard safety measure as there was the danger of pump suction inlet pipes pulling the divers into the inlet grills if the pumps were operated. This meant that the pumps had to be started by hand in the fire-pump room, but the black, choking smoke prevented access. Two men, Bob Vernon and Robbie Carroll, donned BA Sets breathing apparatus and made their way down to the start the fire pumps manually.
These brave men were never to be seen again. So, with no firewater ring-main or sprinkler system, the fire raged on, still being fed by gas from the Claymore and Tartan platforms , creating very high temperatures and causing steelwork to melt. Eventually at around Those left alive were now faced with the decision to stay on board and perish due to the fire and explosions or jump into the sea.
The export oil riser then burst. This allowed the pressurized oil in the subsea pipeline to Flotta from Claymore and Tartan to back-feed to Piper, stoking the established gas fires. This caused black smoke to spiral into the night sky, joining the gas fireballs and creating the worst inferno ever witnessed offshore.
One of these fireballs of feet diameter engulfed a fast rescue boat from the Sandhaven, a standby vessel from a nearby rig. This killed two of three crew members and cruelly, six survivors it had just pulled from the water. Eventually at about midnight she succumbed to the flames, the topsides sliding away into the waters of the North Sea, taking with it the power generation, utility, and accommodation modules, along with the remaining crew members.
Of the crewmembers, were killed, 30 of whose bodies were never recovered. Only 59 men survived and most of these were scarred for life, not only from horrific burns, but from the memory of the explosion and fire on the Piper Alpha on 6th July and the loss of lifelong friends and workmates.
Now all that remains of Piper Alpha are pieces of the production deck flares, angled on the stubs of the steel jacket, with some risers still burning. As we have seen the fire and explosion created massive fireballs accompanied by clouds of black, toxic smoke, and high temperatures. These combined barred any escape by the lifesaving equipment. The Tharos fire fighting and rescue floating platform was on station and came in close to Piper.
In any case she had to retreat due to the fireballs erupting as the gas risers ruptured. Some men climbed down the platform as far as they could and jumped into the sea. Most of these men survived, albeit with horrendous burns as the sea was by now on fire from Piper Alpha oil spills, but were fortunate to be picked up by the fast rescue crafts. Other men were trapped higher up and jumped from nearly feet; from that height they did not have much chance of survival after collision with the water.
She along with her fast rescue craft picked up 37 of the 59 survivors from the water. This was carried out by him and his crew in the true tradition of bravery, in the face of fireballs erupting and missiles flying through his wheelhouse windows. The fast rescue craft from the Tharos and other small rescue boats picked up the remaining men from the burning sea.
A search and rescue SeaKing helicopter based at Lossiemouth, an RAF base 50 miles north of Aberdeen, was diverted from another incident. It made the journey to Piper in record time, but was unable to land on the heli-deck. The inquiry into the Occidental Petroleum Piper Alpha Disaster was commissioned by the Department of Energy, their being the UK Government Body responsible for the operation and safety of offshore oil and gas installations.
They appointed Lord Cullen, a very experienced Scottish Jurist, to conduct the Public Inquiry into the cause of the disaster.
The subsequent inquiry began in January and was to last 6 months, with witnesses giving evidence. The cause has been explained in detail the preceding section, therefore only salient points raised from the inquiry are noted below. It was suggested by a witness that that because the PTW was for the removal of the PSV this being a separate component from the pump , the permit therefore may have been stored in the Safety Office and not in the pumps PTW section in the control room.
The adherence to the Permit to Work System had become too relaxed, with no verbal confirmation taking place at shift handovers. Firewalls were not upgraded to blast walls; therefore they disintegrated on the gas explosion, penetrating gas and oil pipe work and machinery, adding to the fire. These platforms continued to supply oil and gas, despite the flames from Piper being visible to them. If they had shut down the supplies to Piper, the fire and subsequent explosions would have been much less severe and may have been have been limited to the Gas Module.
Once conversion to gas had taken place, the firewalls between modules should have been replaced or upgraded to blast walls. These would have withstood the initial explosion containing the resultant fire to Module C.
It was recommended that ESD valves be located on the deck as well as subsea locations on hydrocarbon risers, with the ESDs on the deck being installed within a blast-proof container. Lord Cullen noted that many of those killed had died from asphyxiation in the accommodation. He recommended the installation of a gas, fire, explosion, and smoke-proof temporary shelter for the crew on offshore installations, for use until evacuation is arranged. The responsibility for the safety of offshore oil and gas installations would be removed from the Department of Energy, a Government Body, and become the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive HSE an independent body with wide-ranging powers.
I saw many changes during my employment as Engineer at the former Brown, Root, and Wimpey offshore construction yard at Nigg in the North of Scotland. Perhaps a large steel mesh cage around the pump suction the pump is submerged being at the bottom of the caisson would be adequate protection for divers.
George medals for bravery were awarded to the following civilians. It had managed to pick up six survivors, but was caught in ropes hanging from Pipers deck and engulfed in a gas explosion. Only crewmember Ian Ketham survived; he received the George Medal, with the other crew members being posthumously awarded theirs and their relatives receiving them from Her Majesty.
This was in recognition of their picking up 37 survivors and their craft going very close to fire and explosions. One year to the day after the Piper Alpha Disaster, bereaved relatives of the missing visited the site of the Piper Alpha, which is marked by a wreck buoy. They were aboard the ferry SS Sunnivar and were said to be comforted by the thought that they were near their loved ones final resting place beneath them.
This bronze larger than life statue depicts three oil workers atop of a marble plinth that has the names of those lost engraved as a lasting memorial to them. Under the plinth is buried the remains of an unidentified victim. Other memorials were raised to remember those who were lost on Piper; this one is in Strathclyde, part of the City of Glasgow from Wikipedia by Gordon Brown. Page content.