ABSTRACT

The Piper Alpha platform was a large, fixed structure platform located about 120 miles north east of Aberdeen in 474 ft of water. It collected oil and gas from the Piper, Claymore, and Tartan fields, separating these into streams of oil, condensate and gas. Piper Alpha, at the time, contributed about 10 per cent of the oil production from the U.K. sector of the North Sea.

At 10:00 p.m. on July 6, 1988 a significant explosion and subsequent fire led to the destruction of the platform. 167 men died (62 escaped). The sequence of events leading up to the explosion and fire will be reviewed and discussed as it appertains to the pipeline network systems that the Piper Alpha platform formed an integral part of.

The results of simulations of the pipeline systems will be presented and history-matched against actual data recovered during the aftermath of the disaster. Conclusions will be drawn that will point to the cause and effect of the events that took place that day.

One should note that the information presented here comprised an element of expert witness testimony at the Cullen Enquiry that commenced in January 1989 and concluded with the Cullen Report published in 1990, [1].

Introduction and Background

Piper Alpha, owned by Occidental Petroleum, started production in 1976 from the Piper oilfield, which was owned by the Occidental Petroleum Caledonia joint venture. It was initially constructed as an oil production platform and was later converted to facilitate gas production with a new gas recovery module added. The Piper field produced oil from 36 wells. By 1988 the platform was producing 10 per cent of the North Sea's oil and gas. Together with the Tartan and Claymore platforms, Piper Alpha was connected by a 128- mile pipeline to the Flotta oil terminal in the Orkneys - Figure 1.

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