North Sea offshore workers in ‘lucky escape’ after gas blast

Offshore workers had a lucky escape after a gas line ruptured and left part of a North Sea platform looking like a “bomb site” on Boxing Day.

The oil platform looked 'like a bomb site'. Picture: Contributed

The crew of the Brae Alpha were put on high alert on Saturday afternoon when the seven-inch pressurised gas line ruptured.

The subsequent blast in the production train module caused “significant” damage to the area and set off dozens of gas detectors as well as prompting fears of an explosion.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Debris from the wrecked gas line was said to have scattered across the room, with one source describing it as looking like a bomb had gone off.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency was alerted to the leak shortly after 4:30pm.

A rescue helicopter was scrambled from Aberdeen and a standby vessel operating nearby was moved in to help as the crew were mustered.

However, the emergency was downgraded before the Bond Jigsaw helicopter could reach the platform, around 155 miles north-east of Aberdeen.

A coastguard spokesman said: “We got the Bond One rescue helicopter from Aberdeen scrambled but while the aircraft was en-route the platform downgraded the emergency and the aircraft turned round and came back.

“The platform operator was to inspect the cause later.”

Marathon Oil, the Texas-based operator of the Brae Field, has shut down production on the Alpha until inspections have been completed.

No-one was injured in the incident but there is understood to be extensive damage to the affected area.

RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said that it could have been a serious incident if there had been an ignition source near the gas.

He said that the incident would lend itself to arguments against making cuts to jobs and extending staff hours in the wake of slumped oil prices.

Mr Molloy said: “It sounds quite serious. The initial feedback was that they were very lucky there was no ignition source.

“We will have to wait for the investigation but I think the inevitable response from the workforce will be along the lines of what we are seeing, which is that cuts don’t work.

“Cutting staff, extending hours and an increasing maintenance backlog does not work.”