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The Worst Offshore Oil Rig Disasters in History

The Worst Offshore Oil Rig Disasters in History

July 24, 2023

Offshore oil rig disasters

Over the last several years, studies have shown that oil extraction is now safer than many occupations, including agriculture and nursing. However, oil extraction is still quite dangerous and can lead to offshore oil disasters. After all, workers are usually on shift for 12 hours a day, working with highly combustible material. A mishap can lead to severe loss of life and have economic and environmental ramifications. Throughout history, there have been several oil spills that made the headlines. Here are a few examples:

Piper Alpha, North Sea

The Piper Alpha Oil Rig was located 120 miles northeast of Scotland. The rig was one of the largest and most successful oil rigs producing more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil every day.

On July 6, 1988, the Piper Alpha fell victim to disaster. The pump’s pressure safety valve was removed a few hours earlier and temporarily sealed with two blind flanges. The pump was not supposed to be turned on in any situation.

However, due to communication errors, a member of the night staff turned it on. The corresponding gas leak led to an explosion on the platform killing 167 people.

Ocean Ranger, Canada

This disaster occurred off the coast of Newfoundland on February 15, 1982, killing all 84 crew members on board. 

The mobile offshore drilling rig was working on an exploration well at the Hibernia field when the incident occurred. The rig was overturned in the water due to a severe storm. Though crew members abandoned the rig and attempted to evacuate through lifeboats, none were able to launch successfully.

Usumacinta Jack-Up Disaster, Gulf of Mexico

On October 23, 2007, the Usumacinta Jack-up collided with the PEMEX-operated Kab-101 platform in the Bay of Campeche. The collision caused an oil and gas leakage, where two of the safety valves had to close.

However, the crew members were unable to close these, which only exacerbated the leakage. Eventually, the rig platform caught fire, and the crew had to be evacuated. However, 21 people were killed during the evacuation.

Preventing Offshore Oil Rig Disasters

Many accidents, including those mentioned in the piece, could have been avoided with safe and secure drilling instruments. At Contact Instruments, our products include torque gauges & systems, weight indicator systems, temperature transmitters, transducers (and more) all of which meet highest safety standards. We’ve got over nine decades of experience in the Alberta Oil and Gas Industry and can assist with almost any issue. Contact us for more information.