Page last updated at 01:23 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 02:23 UK

Remembering Piper Alpha disaster

By Steven Duff
BBC Scotland

Piper Alpha
It was the world's worst offshore disaster
Just before 2200 BST on 6 July 1988, there was a massive gas leak followed by a fire and a series of explosions on the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea.

The heat ruptured a gas pipeline from another platform causing another massive explosion and fireball that engulfed Piper Alpha.

All this took just 22 minutes. It was, and still is, the world's worst offshore disaster. Some 167 people died, 62 survived.

A series of events have been organised to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.

Oil and Gas UK Chaplain Andrew Jolly will lead a service at the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen on Sunday, 6 July at 1400 BST.

The church, in the centre of Aberdeen, is the home of the Oil Chapel where a Book of Remembrance names all those who perished in Piper Alpha. The ecumenical service will be attended by First Minister Alex Salmond.

Later at 1600 BST at the Piper Alpha Memorial in Hazlehead Park there will be an Act of Remembrance followed by the laying of wreaths and flowers at the foot of the memorial.

'Lessons learned'

Reverend Jolly said: "We will also have an offshore service which is being conducted on the Piper Bravo on the Sunday and we've all installations in the North Sea to observe a minute's silence that day as well."

Rev Andrew Jolly
Oil and Gas UK Chaplain Andrew Jolly will lead a service

He continued: "It's an opportunity both for the families who lost people in this dreadful tragedy, for those who survived, and for the industry to acknowledge the terrible events that happened that day.

"I'm not conscious of bitterness onshore or offshore over Piper. Certainly there are concerns that people express from time to time - has the industry really learned the lessons?

"As somebody who does spend a lot of time going offshore these thoughts obviously cross my own mind as well.

"I'm certainly comfortable at the present time that steps have been taken to ensure this terrible tragedy doesn't happen again."

Oil and Gas UK - the body representing operators and contractors in the North Sea - is using the 20th anniversary of the disaster to reinforce the safety message offshore.

It has produced a DVD that is being sent to all North Sea installations. It includes the testimony of a Piper Alpha survivor.

Oil and Gas UK director of health and safety Chris Allen said: "Safety is not just a company or industry matter, but something for every individual onshore or offshore.

"This is why the industry does not shy away from regularly speaking about Piper Alpha.

"It is important we remember what happened and that we do not forget the lessons learned from this tragedy, making sure the next generation of offshore workers does not have to learn the hard way."

BBC Scotland is planning a series of reports to mark the 20th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster.

As well as looking at the lessons learned from the 1988 tragedy, we want to hear from those who survived. If you want to tell your story please contact us using the form below.

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