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Cormorant Alpha

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) of what material the leg of the Cormorant Alpha platform, damaged by explosion on 22 April 1989, was made; what was the extent of the damage to the leg; whether there was any water seepage into the leg at any point; whether the structural integrity of the platform, or of the leg where the explosion occurred, has been affected; what internal and external inspections have been carried out on the damaged leg; what frequency of inspection of the damaged leg his Department will require in the future; what repairs have been carried out to the leg; and whether repairs so far carried out have been approved by the appropriate certifying authority;(2) what advice he has given to operators of offshore installations on the United Kingdom continental shelf consequent on the explosion on the Cormorant Alpha platform on 22 April 1989; and if he will publish the results of his Department's investigation into the causes of the explosion;(3) where the explosion on the Cormorant Alpha production platform on 22 April 1989 occurred; what work was being carried out at the time; and what was the cause of the explosion;(4) whether he intends to pass a copy of his Department's report on the explosion on the Cormorant Alpha platform on 22 April 1989 to the procurator fiscal in Aberdeen for consideration of prosecution.

The explosion occurred in one of the legs of the platform during the installation of an additional emergency shutdown valve on the gas riser. A small component failed allowing a safety plug in the gas riser to be ejected causing a gas leak. the valve and the riser were closed, isolating the riser, but residual gas in the leg found an unidentified ignition source. All personnel had been evacuated to a safe area and precautionary down-manning of the installation had commenced before the ignition occurred.The legs of the Cormorant Alpha platform are constructed of concrete. There was no primary structural damage as a result of the explosion and the structural integrity of the platform had not been affected. Repairs to some minor internal damage to trunking and hatch covers have been carried out and have been approved by the certifying authority. Regular surveys of the platform will be undertaken by the certifying authority in accordance with statutory requirements. Although water from the deluge system entered the leg, there was no abnormal sea water seepage following the incident.In October 1989 my safety directorate issued a discussion document on protection against fire and explosion on offshore installations.A report on my Department's investigation into the incident has been passed to the procurator fiscal in Aberdeen. As the report is an integral part of the procurator fiscal's consideration of whether any prosecution should be initiated, it would not be appropriate to release it.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when the Cormorant field will begin production of oil and gas; and what has been the total loss of production from the Cormorant field caused by (a) the shutdown of the platform and (b) the shutdown of the pipeline system running through the Cormorant Alpha platform.

Production from the North Cormorant platform restarted late in May 1989. Production from the Cormorant Alpha platform is expected to restart later this month. It is not expected that there will be any long-term loss of production, but some 0·6 million tonnes of Cormorant production was deferred while the pipeline system was shut down and a further 1·1 million tonnes has been deferred while the Cormorant Alpha platform only has been shut down.