Engineering Ethics: The Piper Alpha Disaster (Ohio T&M)

Training overview
Professional Course
Self-paced Online
2 hours
From 59.90 USD
Start dates
59.90 USD
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Course description

In Engineering Ethics: The Piper Alpha Disaster , you'll learn ...

  • What caused the initial explosion on the Piper Alpha oil & gas platform
  • Factors that contributed to escalation of the event and subsequent explosions
  • Why the backup diesel-driven firewater pumps were unavailable to provide pressure to the firewater main
  • How the original platform design and layout was rendered inadequate when gas processing was added to the facility


To meet the Ohio Board's intent that online courses be "paced" by the provider, a timer will be used to record your study time. You will be unable to access the quiz until the required study time of 100 minutes has been met.

Credit: 2 PDH

Length: 35 pages

Piper Alpha was a North Sea oil production platform operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd. The platform began production in 1976, first as an oil platform and then later converted to gas production. Multiple explosions and the resulting oil and gas fires destroyed it on 6 July 1988, killing 167 men, with only 61 survivors. The death toll includes two crewmen aboard a nearby rescue vessel attempting to pull survivors from the North Sea.

At the time of the disaster, the platform accounted for approximately ten percent of North Sea oil and gas production, and was the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost and industry impact.

The full scope of the Piper Alpha disaster story is hard to comprehend. Case studies of engineering disasters generally center on discrete causes and the factors that caused the deficiencies to be overlooked. Usually, a mistake is made in the design, a contractor deviates from the plan, maintenance is erratic, or a system is stretched beyond its capacity.

The Piper’s story is far different. There was no single cause of failure, nor any specific faulty part or decision to blame. Instead, a routine maintenance procedure initiated an unimaginable chain of failures and human errors, each of which contributed to the world’s worst offshore oil disaster. Yet, the malfunctions were completely man-made, preventable and foreseeable.

The story of Piper Alpha is one of design flaws, failures in maintenance and operational procedures, inadequate training and poor management. In this course you will learn details of the events leading up to the initial explosion, as well as factors that contributed to escalation of the event. Multiple deficiencies in every area of operations and safety management contributed to the scale of the largest oil & gas disaster in history.

The lessons learned from Piper Alpha transcend industries, job titles and engineering disciplines. This compelling course will benefit engineers who work in any industry, not just oil and gas engineers.

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Certificate of Completion

You will be able to immediately print a certificate of completion after passing a multiple-choice quiz consisting of 10 questions. PDH credits are not awarded until the course is completed and quiz is passed.

Training content

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • What caused the Piper Alpha disaster
  • Factors that contributed to escalation of the disaster
  • A warning unheeded by Piper Alpha’s management team following a previous fatality on the platform
  • Piper Alpha’s layout, permit to work (PTW) system, and shift handover procedures
  • How platform modifications to accommodate gas production contributed to the scope of the disaster
  • The chain of failures on the night of July 6 immediately preceding the initial explosion
  • Why the firefighting system was mostly inoperable
  • Evacuation and rescue efforts
  • How nearby operating platforms, rather than provide assistance, actually made the disaster worse
  • Lessons learned from Piper Alpha that engineers can apply in their own professional practice


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7915 FM 1960 West, Suite 130
77070 Houston Texas

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