Oil & Gas UK, the leading representative organisation for the UK offshore oil and gas industry, is to give presentations to young industry trainees to pass on the important lessons learnt from the Piper Alpha disaster twenty years ago and ensure that the corporate memory is shared with the next generation of offshore workers. The students, who are either in their first or second year of the Upstream Technician Training Scheme, will also learn the important role they each play not only in ensuring their own safety but that of their colleagues working alongside them and how the proper management of process safety is essential to prevent major accidents.
Chris Allen, HSSE director with Oil & Gas UK said: "The majority of these young students were not even born at the time of the Piper Alpha disaster. Although the management of safety in the industry has improved enormously since then, the fundamental hazards remain. These technicians will eventually be responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of our offshore installations and need to appreciate the lessons from Piper and the importance of each of their individual contributions to safety."
There will be two presentations. The first will take place on February 19 at Jewel & Esk College, Edinburgh and around 50 technicians are expected to attend. A larger audience of around 130 young technicians is expected at the Aberdeen presentation which will be held at the Thistle Hotel, Altens on February 29.
John Bailey, a tutor for the Upstream Technician Training Scheme welcomes Oil & Gas UK's initiative: "Oil & Gas UK's Piper Alpha presentation has our enthusiastic support, as we both build and reinforce modern apprentices awareness of the safety culture needed in todays oilfield operations."
Background on Piper Alpha
Piper Alpha was a large North Sea oil platform that started production in 1976. It produced oil from 24 wells and in its early life it had also produced gas from two wells. It was connected by an oil pipeline to Flotta and by gas pipelines to two other installations. In 1988, Piper Alpha was operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd ("OpCal"), a wholly owned subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation.
On 6 July 1988, there was a massive leakage of gas condensate on Piper Alpha, which was ignited causing an explosion which led to large oil fires. The heat ruptured the riser of a gas pipeline from another installation. This produced a further massive explosion and fireball that engulfed the Piper Alpha platform. All this took just 22 minutes. The scale of the disaster was enormous. 167 people died, 62 people survived.
It is believed that the leak came from pipe work connected to a condensate pump. A safety valve had been removed from this pipe work for overhaul and maintenance. The pump itself was undergoing maintenance work. When the pipe work from which the safety valve had been removed was pressurised at start-up, it is believed the leak occurred.