Special journal published to mark the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster

Published:  06 July, 2018

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has published a special issue of the Loss Prevention Bulletin (LPB), marking 30 years since the Piper Alpha platform explosion.

On 6 July 1988 the North Sea Piper Alpha oil platform exploded. It was noted as the world’s biggest offshore oil disaster, killing 167 people, leaving behind just 61 survivors who were either seriously injured or distressed. 10% of UK oil production was affected, leading to financial losses of approximately £2 billion.

Loss Prevention Bulletin: Piper Alpha Disaster – 30th Anniversary explores lessons learned from the incident, drawing on the resulting public inquiry led by Lord William Cullen. The inquiry lasted for 180 days, with the report published in November 1990. It criticised Piper Alpha’s ‘inadequate’ maintenance and safety procedures and made a total of 108 recommendations for changes to North Sea process safety.

The special issue of LPB retrospectively examines the inquiry recommendations, and how effective developments in legislation have been.

In addition, Professor Stephen Richardson, Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, and Fiona Macleod, Chair of IChemE’s Loss Prevention Panel, have published a joint paper in the bulletin - Piper Alpha – What have we learned?. The paper explores the incident in further detail, and what lessons can still be learned today.

Richardson, who was an expert witness on the Piper Alpha public inquiry, said:

“This special edition has been published to remind everyone working in the process and hazards industries that the lessons learnt from this tragic incident are still relevant today.

“The events of Piper Alpha were really harrowing. Giving expert evidence as part of the inquiry was an emotional experience, and one I’ll never forget. But I felt it was my duty to be part of it and play a role in helping to change safety culture and practices for the better.”

Macleod said:

“The challenge of change should never be underestimated. Learning from past incidents is the way we evolve our practices for a better, safer society to live and work in. It’s painful, but important to remember the horror of tragedies like Piper Alpha. The lessons it teaches us are every bit as applicable today - and go far beyond the offshore oil industry.

“LPB is just one way that IChemE helps to share knowledge and disseminate key learnings. Thank you to all the authors that have contributed to this special issue with such thought-provoking articles.”

Piper Alpha – What have we learned? by Fiona Macleod and Stephen Richardson is available to be downloaded for free on IChemE’s website. To read the full special issue or for more information on the Loss Prevention Bulletin, subscribe online: http://www.icheme.org/lpb

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