Piper Alpha Oil Rig Disaster

It was in the year 1988 the month was July and the fatal day was the sixth. The very famous Piper alpha oil rig constructed by McDermott met with a bad explosion. In which about one hundred and sixty seven crewmen died.  Therefore the Piper Alpha Oil Rig disaster was one of the worst cases of oil disasters ever.

We are now going to tell you all about Piper alpha oil rig disaster. It was built in the highlands of Scotland for the North Sea. It started production in the year of 1976. Slowly it became the largest producer of oil in this region before it met with the fatal explosion.

The exact date is not known but before the explosion it was producing gas along with oil. This was perhaps the major reason for the explosion that took it to the bottom of the sea killing so many crew men. It was a gas leak that eventually leads to the accident in 1988.

It is a tragic story that we are now going to discuss about the Piper alpha oil rig disaster. As we discuss about the incident you will get a clear picture of what exactly happened that day. Well before we start let us give an idea of where exactly Piper alpha oil rig was located in the North Sea.

Apart from Piper Alpha there were two more platforms namely the claymore platform and the Tartan platform. All were located in a triangle. They were collectively located about one seventy miles from Aberdeen. They processed crude oil and pumped it to the Flotta terminal on the island of Orkney. The oils lines of Claymore and Tartan were connected to Piper and from piper the oil line was directly connected to Flotta terminal.

This was exactly why Piper Alpha became the hub. It used to process its own gas after collecting from Tartan and transferring it to MCP-01 platform. There was an additional gas pipeline that was installed linking Claymore and Piper. This line would receive and send gas to Claymore that was required for gas-lift purpose. Now that you have an idea about the location of this platform let us move on to some more details that will help us to understand the Piper alpha oil rig disaster better.

Well the actual cause for the Piper alpha oil rig disaster can be attributed to the fact that high pressure condensate pumps are an indispensible part of the gas processing that happens in the off shore platform. The Piper has two of these pumps. These two were differentiated as pump A and pump B namely to make the recognition simple.

They were used one at a time the other would be a standby when one was used. The piper also processed gas for the main power generator that supplied electricity to the whole platform. What exactly happened on the fatal day of the Piper alpha oil rig disaster was something like this. The pressure safety valve was removed from the pressure condensate pump A for a routine check up that was a regular practice. The work permit tag was also put and as a practice two blanks (steel blinds) were put in place of the removed pressure condensate pumps. This was a regular practice and all the people working in the rig knew about the same.

However, that night around ten the other pressure condensate pump stopped working and they could not understand what happened to it as a result it could not be restarted. The control room engineer could not find the permit to work boxes for pressure condensate pump A. As a result he started the pump A.

The pressure started building and when it became too much the gas escaped and that was the primary reason for the Piper alpha oil rig disaster.

The explosion was so massive that it ripped off the firewalls, the oil pipes and all the gas modules. However, this did not stop the gas and oil supply from claymore and Tartan platform this only made the situation worse. No wonder the temperature of piper increased and led to the tragic accident that killed so many crew members. A lot of alarms were raised in the control room.

However, even before the operator could respond the explosions had already done the damage. The control room no doubt was badly damaged. The operator did successful in shutting down the emergency button that should ideally cut off the gas and oils supply but that did not stop the supply. The explosion was clearly visible from claymore and Tartan still the gas supply sent on.

The water pumps for safety reasons were made in such a way that they could be operated manually only. Due to the toxic smoke it was impossible to go and operate the pumps. However, two very brave men named Robbie Carroll and Bob Vernon wore breathing apparatus and went down to operate the pumps. As expected they never came back. As the sprinkler systems did not work the fire could not be controlled. The temperature became so high that the steel work of the platform too melted.

In another twenty minutes that is around 10:20 there was another explosion this led to the destruction of the gas raiser from Tartan. The people on board whoever was remaining were forced to decide if they want to stay and die in the platform or they should jump into the sea that was not very safe either. The fire and smoke created the worst inferno that anyone had ever seen. This made rescue even more difficult.

The tragedy was that a rescue boat was also engulfed by these fireballs. The boat had six survivors from the Piper alpha oil rig disaster and two rescue operators. At around twelve in the night the Piper alpha oil rig went into the waters of the North Sea. It took with it the remaining crew members who were on the platform still. At the time of the incident the platform had about two hundred and twenty six crew members. Of these only fifty nine survived.

Most of them were traumatized both physically and emotionally. One hundred and sixty seven members died that fatal night. How these people survived is a miracle on its own. Most of them jumped into the waters from the highest point of the platform. They were later picked by rescue crafts that were on the sea. The silver pit was the name of the boat that pulled out about thirty seven of the fifty nine survivors. Other small rescue boats picked up the remaining survivors. A helicopter named sea king also played a vital role in the rescue. It could not land at the helipad but it picked up some survivors from the top of the platform.

This is a summary of what happened and what lead to the Piper alpha oil rig disaster. This is indeed a good learning for any oil rig. Soon after the incident a commission was set to understand the lapses that happened and how to make off shore oil rigs safer. This gave recommendations on what safety standards must be followed to ensure that such incidents don’t happen again.

Many medals were awarded to the members who survived and also two the families of those who lost their lives. After a year of the accident the family members were taken to the spot where the accident happed so that they could pray for those who lost their lives and the bodies were not recovered.

Many memorials have been made all over Aberdeen as a tribute to all those who lost their lives that tragic night. We are enclosing the pictures of some of these. There are some scholarships too that dedicated to the Piper Alpha Oil Rig disaster. We too salute those brave men who lost their lives in this tragic incident by this article.

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