21 Aug The Piper Alpha Disaster
Mercifully the incidents of large-scale accidents in the North Sea Oil and Gas field have been relatively low. Given the amount of environmental damage that could occur if things went wrong, requiring the use of numerous Spill Kits from Hyde Park Environmental as a minimum, we have been extremely lucky. The prospect of an oil spill dumped across the East coast of Scotland and further down to England was never far away. Tourism and the North Sea fishing fleets would have been put under severe pressure to survive as well as the fragile ecosystems that exist in the waters.
Piper Alpha was initially set up as an oil recovery rig. It was then altered to take natural gas as well. This was the beginning of the problems that would result in the destruction of the platform. It was, at the time, the biggest of the platforms in the sea and accounted for a vast ten per cent of the field’s total output and production.
The accident occurred due to a missing safety valve. Gas was able to flow in the wrong direction catching fire soon afterwards. Natural Gas is a highly flammable and explosive substance. This, combined with the enormous amounts of crude oil, created a fireball. This caused the whole unit to tilt and come loose from its moorings. The entire lot slipped into the sea and sank beneath the waves. Luckily, safety measures cut off the supply so that nothing resource-wise escaped, plus the heat burned off any that did.