Piper Alpha

The Disaster

Piper Alpha was an oil production platform in the North Sea operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Limited. It began production in 1976, but on July 6, 1988, it was the site of the world's most lethal offshore disaster.

An explosion and resulting oil and gas fires destroyed the platform, killing 167 people, including two crewmen of a rescue vessel. Only 61 workers escaped. 30 bodies were never recovered.

A large fixed platform, Piper Alpha was situated on the Piper oilfield, approximately 120 miles (193 kilometres) northeast of Aberdeen in 474 feet (144 meters) of water. It was made up of four modules separated by firewalls, and for safety reasons, the modules were organized so that the most dangerous operations were distant from the personnel areas. A later conversion from oil to gas processing broke this safety concept, with the result that sensitive areas were brought together; for example, gas compression occurred next to the control room - this played a role in the accident.