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Piper Alpha

Fire & Explosion

July 6th , 1988

Offshore Safety Training pack

Piper Field Location

North sea
120 miles

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Manifold Compression Platform Booster station

storage terminal

1280 T

70,000 T
storage terminal 80 T Hydrocarbon

260 T 160 T MDO

Gas import
lift / export
Sea depth: 140 m
Piper was the hub for onshore

Source Courtesy: Internet

Piper Alpha Platform



Source courtesy: Internet

Source courtesy: Internet
Piper Alpha Oil Producing Platform
•Was a North Sea oil production platform operated
by Occidental Petroleum Ltd.;

•Platform began production in 1976;

•For safety reasons the modules were organized

so that the most dangerous operations were
distant from the personnel areas;

•First as an oil platform and then later converted to

gas production.
Module A: 38 Wellheads
Module B: Production separators
Module C: Gas compressors + 18” gas
line to MCP01
Module D: Electrical S/G room, Control
room, EDGs
Accommodation was located below
Piper Alpha Fire & Explosion
• An explosion and resulting fire destroyed it
on July 6, 1988, killing 167 men
• Total insured loss was about £1.7 billion
(US$ 3.4 billion).
• The platform accounted for around ten per
cent of the oil and gas production from the
North Sea.
Source courtesy: Internet
The next morning
Source courtesy: Internet
Source courtesy: Internet
Sequence of Events
•On 6 July 1988, PSV maintenance was ongoing
for gas compressor A.
• 2 work permits were taken
•The shift supervisor was not able to complete the
maintenance work in the shift and so he wrote
handover notes and gave them to the contractor.
•The contractor did not read them and signed off
the permit for the work.
Sequence of Events
•The next shift personnel came and started
operation of Compressor A when compressor B
tripped and could not be re-started

•They didn't know that the valve was replaced by a

blind flange and that there was no pressure
release valve.

• There was a steady release of gas condensate

into the air, after initial pressure built up, and finally
there was an explosion.
Piper Alpha -Facts
• Piper Alpha had also been audited and
passed by the regulator 7 days earlier to
the explosion!!
• Many people died because they followed
procedures blindly!
Which all safety systems/Barriers did
not work at Piper Alpha?
• Permit to work system

• Platform layout

• Delayed decision making

• Evacuation facilities

• Fire protection system

• Passive Fire Protection

• Communication
Piper & your Offshore complex
Any Commonalities?
Piper Alpha Offshore Complex

Offshore complex consisting of inter-connected platforms

Pumps gas offshore

Taros, MSV

Oil to gas conversion

Existence of fire walls

Existence of fie water deluge

Existence of gas compressors

• Can this happen in your offshore complex?
– Are there Proper means of evacuation?
– Is there a safe distance from the hazardous
Process Areas and the Living quarters?
– Are there proper procedures to ensure
Maintenance has been performed?
– How reliable is your PTW system?
– Availability of blast walls?
• The importance of maintaining safety systems / barriers
in order to manage / control risks;

• Major accident management should be part of Business

Continuity Planning (by 1990, Occidental Petroleum was
out of business in the UK!);

• Piper Alpha disaster paved way for the Offshore Safety

Case regime and FSA studies based on Lord Cullen’s
report; and

• 20 years later, UK Oil & Gas industry is aiming for being

the safest industry by 2010 (‘Step Change in Safety’