A major three-day conference to mark the 25th anniversary year of the Piper Alpha disaster has opened at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on Tuesday 18 June.
Organised by Oil & Gas UK, the event is aimed at bringing together people from across the global oil and gas industry to reflect on the lessons learnt from the tragedy, review how far offshore safety has evolved since and to reinforce industry commitment to continuous improvement. The latest report of a 48% reduction in Hydrocarbon release is an indication of how far the industry has come. The event has attracted around 700 delegates and has been sponsored by Talisman Sinopec Energy UK Limited.
The keynote address was provided by Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, who chaired the public inquiry into the disaster. Lord Cullen spoke about his memories of the public inquiry, discussed his methodology and stressed the importance of both safety management and workforce involvement. Lord Cullen commented that: “To achieve the proper management of safety you need good safety leadership and a strong and positive culture of safety. A great deal has been done to reduce the risk. The rest depends on how the management handles its safety arrangements.”
Judith Hackitt CBE, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, warned delegates of the need to learn from previous incidents. She said:“Marking the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster is important – using this as an opportunity to reflect on how we need to get better at embedding that learning from the past. While the precise circumstances and contexts of major incidents differ in some respects, at heart I am left with the feeling that there are no new accidents. Rather there are old accidents repeated by new people.
Judith Hackitt was followed by RMT Regional Organiser Jake Molloy who provided a workforce perspective on the Piper Alpha disaster.
The conference was opened by Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, Malcolm Webb, who told the 700 delegates that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst offshore disaster. The impact that Piper Alpha had on people and communities was immeasurable, with the loss of 167 men.
“The primary purpose of Piper 25 is to galvanise the oil and gas industry into further continuous improvement. In doing so, we intend to reflect upon the past, review how far we’ve come since that day and gather together experts in their field as well as experts from other industries with the purpose of sharing good practice and learning from each other”. He went on to say that “in addition, the impact that Piper Alpha had on the oil and gas industry was transformational and the Cullen Report made 106 recommendations – all of which were accepted, implemented and in some cases have further evolved since. Piper 25 is a once-in-a-generation conference which I hope will be of enormous value to all those who attend.”
The following session focused on the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Professor Andrew Hopkins of Australian National University discussed safety case regulation in the light of the disaster, before the morning session was brought to a close by BP’s Executive Vice President, Safety & Operational Risk, Bob Fryar, who spoke about advances in global deepwater capabilities and the progress made in safety and operational risk management.
The afternoon session saw a series of parallel ‘breakout sessions’ where delegates could select to see presentations based on their specific areas of interest, covering themes such as: safety management systems and control of work; major hazard management and safety technology; human and organisational factors; emergency preparedness and response; and advances in fire and explosion engineering.