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Safety Plant - Essay Example

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The Piper Alpha Disaster BY YOU YOUR SCHOOL INFO HERE DATE HERE Introduction On 6 July, 1988 the North Sea Oil and Gas Platform Piper Alpha experienced a series of catastrophic disasters leading to complete destruction of this vital resource for the industry…
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Download file to see previous pages In the 1980s, the platform received an overhaul to allow for natural gas production, which changed some of the dynamics of its operational and technological systems. Piper Alpha was a fixed platform in the North Sea, consisting of four modules that were segregated by a series of firewalls. Two modules were isolated for gas and oil production, with one module for gas compression and a fourth containing platform wellheads. Later analysis indicated that these firewalls were inefficient for the multiple activities occurring on the platform. The remaining levels of Piper Alpha contained control rooms, helipad operations, and personnel areas (e.g. sleeping quarters and recreational centres). On board were a variety of life rescue boats to facilitate evacuation in the event of emergencies. The events leading to the disaster and occurring during the series of fires were attributed to operational deficiencies, management failures, and process/procedure dysfunction, making this a complex scenario of human and tangible factors. This report highlights the inter-connectivity of these failures as well as discussion of the sweeping safety and procedural changes that occurred in the industry post-disaster. The events leading to Piper Alpha destruction Piper Alpha maintained two different condensate pumps (Pumps A and B). A condensate pump is designed to remove excess condensate (water vapour) to facilitate compression and production functions. On the morning of July 6, routine maintenance was scheduled for Pump A which called for the removal of the pressure safety valve. For reasons unknown, the actual maintenance was delayed and instead of reassembly, Pump A was closed off with a temporary metal flange and scheduled for lock out. As was part of the Piper Alpha operations and safety processes, a work permit was handwritten by the current technician with information that Pump A should not be turned on due to the temporary inability to handle pressure loads. Up until this point, the safety and operational processes were in-line with platform practice and expectations. Six hours later, the written permit indicating that Pump A should, under no circumstances, be turned on was somehow misplaced by the next shift working in the operations control room. Unknown to the technician who wrote the permit, there was a supplementary permit already posted that authorized construction overhaul of Pump A in the control room. No verbal exchanges occurred between the technician in charge of Pump A lockout and the control room operators as another problem was being dealt with on the platform at the time (Caplan 2005). Thus, the permit was left in the control room and the technician returned to the employee housing area. Earlier in the day, Piper Alpha had been experiencing blockage problems caused by hydrate buildup, a form of ice produced when gas and water molecules form solids under certain temperature and pressure conditions (Sheen 1987). This hydrate blockage stopped Pump B and the control room was unable to get the pump back online. The significance of this was that operations of Pump B were inter-connected with every power system on Piper Alpha, therefore there were only a matter of minutes after Pump B ceased production to ensure no power supply disruption. The control room identified an overhaul permit for Pump A, but no indication about the warning of not turning on Pump A since, as previously identified, it had been misplaced. Therefore, the manager of the control room determined that Pump A was an effective ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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