The deadliest accidents related to the search for oil and gas happened offshore. The first offshore tragedy was the sinking of the BP operated jackup Sea Gem on December 27, 1965, off the mouth of the Humber River in the UK North Sea. Thirteen men lost their life.
• The Piper Alpha disaster which killed 167 workers on July 6, 1988 off the coast of Scotland, is the world’s deadliest ever oil rig accident.
• The second deadliest accident happened March 27, 1980. The pentagon type semi-submersible Alexander Kielland was used as a floatel to support the operations of Phillips Petroleum Edda 2/5C platform on Ekofisk field located in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea at about 320 km southwest of Stavanger. During a heavy storm with waves up to 12 meters, the Alexander Kielland lost one of its five legs and sank in less than 30 minutes. Of the 212 people aboard, 123 were killed.
• The Seacrest drillship drilling for Unocal in the Gulf of Thailand was hit by the typhoon Gay. The gravity of the situation was downplayed by Unocal and the drillship capsized the 6 November 1989, killing 91.
• In 1982 the Ocean Ranger semi-submersible drilling for Mobil Oil of Canada on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, 267 kilometres east of St. John’s, capsized in a heavy storm with 100-knot winds and 65 ft waves, killing 84.
• The drillship Glomar Java Sea, hit by the tropical storm Lex in October 1983, capsized near the Hainan Island. 81 workers lost their life.
• The deadliest accident not involving a mobile or fixed offshore installation is a transport accident. The 6 November 1986, a Chinook helicopter went down near the Shetland Islands, 45 perished in the accident
• On August 16, 1984, a blowout occurred on the Enchova central platform in the Campos field, offshore Brazil. The platform fire and problems with lifeboat lowering mechanism caused the death of 36.
• On August 15, 1995, the McDermott pipe lay barge DLB-269, hit by the hurricane Roxanne sank in shallow waters off the coast of Mexico. Of the 245 crewmen aboard the sunken barge, 23 died.
• On July 25 2005 22 workers died when the Bombay High North platform exploded after being hit by a supply vessel maneuvering under strong swells.
• On October 23 2007, in the Gulf of Mexico the Usumacinta jack-up platform collided with the PEMEX-operated Kab-101 platform during a storm. The collision caused oil and gas leakage caused a fire on the platform. 22 people perished.
• On June 30 1964 in the Gulf of Mexico, The C.P. Baker Drilling Barge suffered a blowout. Within a few minutes an explosion caused the barge to be engulfed in flames. 22 of the 43 workers aboard survived by jumping into the sea.
• In April 2016, all 13 members on-board the Eurocopter 225L Super Puma lost their lives when travelling from the Gullfaks oilfield to Bergen.
• On April 20 2010 the Deepwater Horizon massive blowout in the Tiber Oil Field at Keathley Canyon block 102 in the US Gulf of Mexico killed 11 crewmen and ignited a fireball visible from 40 miles away.
The causes of the deadliest accidents that all happened offshore are the following (involving human errors or not):
• Weather – 54%
• Transport by helicopter – 23%
• Blowout while drilling – 15%
• Accidental blaze – 8%
Human error can be considered as the root cause of 60% of the deadliest accidents of the oil and gas industry.