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Piper Alpha - 30 years on

Don't forget, an oil or gas production facility is different to a drilling rig. One lot floats, one lot doesn't.

A drilling rig is normally a jack up or semi submersible that is floated to a location and then either puts down its jack up legs or is tethered by buoys and anchors. You also have drilling ships that are held on station by thrusters and GPS. All these can "sink" and in several cases such as the semi-submersible platform, Alexander L. Kielland that capsized in high seas killing 123, or any one of the 30 or so major incidents involving the lost of 50 + people in each that we don't hear about because they were "brown people" operating in waters that we seem to just not care about :(

A production installation such as Piper A is fixed to the sea bed by permanent legs. These can't sink (by theory).

All platorms have passive and active fire detection and fighting systems onboard that are normally set to be automatic. The design of platforms means that only the minimum number of personnel are in a dangerous area at any one time. The Temporary refuges and Accommodation block are heavily protected by deluge systems.

The HSE has very clear guidance for the operators, which is that personnel come before assets...but due to the very nature of the dangers involved, without an asset, you don't have personnel.

There was an incident that I was personally involved in that happened in 1986 in Brunei, on a DSV.
I was in saturation, and we were on a two-man bell run when one of the generators in the engine room caught fire.
The fire was put out, but all power was lost and we were in no danger of sinking.
I don't know how the bell was recovered to the surface and mated to the chambers, but it was done. There was no point me worrying about it because it was all out of my control, I was only a passenger.
Once we were in the living chambers an emergency decompression was initiated and we decompressed in about 48 hours as opposed to a normal deco which from the depth we were stored at would have been roughly 96 hours.
 
The only real firefighting capacity back in the day was my firms support ship Forties Kiwi, an old 60’s tanker converted into a rig support ship. Spent her time circling BPs rigs in the Forties field. Regarded as a waste of time and money by many operators, not after Alpha she wasn’t.

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2/51

LE
There was an incident that I was personally involved in that happened in 1986 in Brunei, on a DSV.
I was in saturation, and we were on a two-man bell run when one of the generators in the engine room caught fire.
The fire was put out, but all power was lost and we were in no danger of sinking.
I don't know how the bell was recovered to the surface and mated to the chambers, but it was done. There was no point me worrying about it because it was all out of my control, I was only a passenger.
Once we were in the living chambers an emergency decompression was initiated and we decompressed in about 48 hours as opposed to a normal deco which from the depth we were stored at would have been roughly 96 hours.

I am surprised you were sat diving in Brunei. I learned to dive around the gas fields off of Kuala Belait (Ampa field etc). That would have been from 77 to about 84. I presume you were to the North then, off Muara??
 
I am surprised you were sat diving in Brunei. I learned to dive around the gas fields off of Kuala Belait (Ampa field etc). That would have been from 77 to about 84. I presume you were to the North then, off Muara??

The field you quote was the ampa field directly off the mouth of the Belait river. There was absolutely no visibility so everything we did was done by feel. The reason for the lack of visibility was all the sediment being pumped out from the river.
I was there from 84 to 87 on the Sub Sea Canopus, which was the DSV that caught fire, and we had a four-man sat running continuously.
There were a number of times that the sat divers were working shallower than the air divers, but we were being paid a hell of a lot more.
The Champion field was like diving in an absolute clear bottle of gin. Perfect visibility.
I remember once in the Champion field, laying on the bottom at 120ft waiting for the deck crew to send something down to me and looking up and I could recognise everyone on deck that was looking over the side as they were rigging whatever it was to send down the downline to me.

Muara was the port that we put into for crew change and the closest field in those days was the Champion field.
 
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I was with Bond Helicopters and off duty for a few days when the phone went just as Newsnight was starting. The ops guy said that there had been a “disaster” offshore and could I make my way into work. I told him I had half a can of beer down my neck but he said to come in as I was one of the closest. Twenty five minutes or so later I was burning and turning at the holding point for the runway but I didn’t launch as by then the lads from Bristows were getting airborne. We got stood down to wait in the ops room and about an hour later we got a call to see if we had any body bags.
 

2/51

LE
The field you quote was the ampa field directly off the mouth of the Belait river. There was absolutely no visibility so everything we did was done by feel. The reason for the lack of visibility was all the sediment being pumped out from the river.
I was there from 84 to 87 on the Sub Sea Canopus, which was the DSV that caught fire, and we had a four-man sat running continuously.
There were a number of times that the sat divers were working shallower than the air divers, but we were being paid a hell of a lot more.
The Champion field was like diving in an absolute clear bottle of gin. Perfect visibility.

That is strange as my over riding memory of SW Ampa was the clarity of the water. Could the logging have had that much of an impact on the Belait river in 3 years?

We used to head out from the Yacht club in KB, over the sand bar and steam (well, power, local open boat with two feck off outboards) out to the platforms. About 45 minutes if I remember (I was young and it was a long time ago).

It was a large Scottish chap and his son who came with us, can't remember their names (Except we all called him Jock) and a guy called Peter House who was married to a local lass. Big scar on his cheek.

Also used to fish off them as well as collect fish and corals for a marine tank that my father had set up outside in the car port.

Wonderful days indeed..none of this PADI stuff, a couple of dives in the pool at Panaga, some paddling around in shallow water off Labuan and then onto diving off the platforms! I was 11 when I started.
 
That is strange as my over riding memory of SW Ampa was the clarity of the water. Could the logging have had that much of an impact on the Belait river in 3 years?

We used to head out from the Yacht club in KB, over the sand bar and steam (well, power, local open boat with two feck off outboards) out to the platforms. About 45 minutes if I remember (I was young and it was a long time ago).

It was a large Scottish chap and his son who came with us, can't remember their names (Except we all called him Jock) and a guy called Peter House who was married to a local lass. Big scar on his cheek.

Also used to fish off them as well as collect fish and corals for a marine tank that my father had set up outside in the car port.

Wonderful days indeed..none of this PADI stuff, a couple of dives in the pool at Panaga, some paddling around in shallow water off Labuan and then onto diving off the platforms! I was 11 when I started.

What can I say, I only know what it was like for me doing it for a job.
I could tell you about the octopus trying to wrench my hat off in the Ampa field, which made me squeal like a girl.
 

ericferret

War Hero
Thre was an interview with one of the survivors who was picked up by a rescue boat where the bloke was stood somewhere near the middle of the rig with the fire at his back. The middle of the rig between the legs is full of cross bracing girders, pipework etc etc. His choice was certain death by fire or take a jump off the platform down through the middle of the legs.

It gave me a case of the wobbles just thinking about the choice.

I suspect this is the man my friend R was talking about recently as the story tallies. He says he jumped when his boots started to melt.

R was on a drilling vessel not far from Piper Alpha. They could see the flames and initially thought they were flaring. The driller had just up anchored to move
when all the alarms went off, the anchors went back down and boats were launched. Sadly they returned with no survivors.
 
There was an incident that I was personally involved in that happened in 1986 in Brunei, on a DSV.
I was in saturation, and we were on a two-man bell run when one of the generators in the engine room caught fire.
The fire was put out, but all power was lost and we were in no danger of sinking.
I don't know how the bell was recovered to the surface and mated to the chambers, but it was done. There was no point me worrying about it because it was all out of my control, I was only a passenger.
Once we were in the living chambers an emergency decompression was initiated and we decompressed in about 48 hours as opposed to a normal deco which from the depth we were stored at would have been roughly 96 hours.
Sorry for dragging up an old thread, but talking of saturation diving I recently watched a docu-drama called "Last Breath" which involves saturation divers. It's based on a true story, very powerfully presented, and is one of those "what the...." stories.

I recommend it to anyone who like a good show, but also anyone like me who deals with safety or safety engineering. You can almost see the holes in the cheese lining up.
 

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