Numerous miles below the surface of the ocean is where offshore gas and oil exploration occurs. In addition to requiring extremely sophisticated technology, oil platforms can be hazardous environments with a variety of environmental risks. Since the first documented well drilling incident in China in 347 AD, there have been countless well drilling incidents that have had a detrimental effect on both human life and the environment. Well drilling has been practised for thousands of years. On the plus side, though, almost all accidents have prompted safety evaluations and contributed to the advancement of safety measures and apparatus.

We've compiled a list of the top 10 catastrophic oil rig incidents below to show you how risky this business can be.

PIPER ALPHA PLATFORM – 6 July 1988

167 of the 226 persons on board perished in the Piper Alpha catastrophe, making it by far the deadliest offshore oil rig accident in history. Prior to the incident, the UK-based station in the North Sea was producing over 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, or 10% of the nation's total oil output. But in 1988, a mistake in judgement led to a catastrophic miscommunication. A crucial safety valve was taken out of a gas pump early on July 6th, and the unit was put under rigorous lockdown. Later in the day, the shift managers, who had started the pump, were not appropriately informed of this information. This resulted in a persistent gas leak and an enormous fire that totally destroyed the platform. Even worse, several of the crew members lost their lives as a result of their terror because they were not adequately equipped to handle such an occurrence. Only 61 of the crew members managed to escape alive, and it ultimately took three weeks to contain the fire.

ALEXANDER L. KIELLAND DRILLING RIG – 27 March 1980

During that period, the semi-submersible platform in Scotland known as the Alexander L.The Edda oil rig labourers were housed in Kielland. The rig was run by Phillips Petroleum and owned by Stavanger Drilling, a Norwegian business. But on that fatal day, lashed by enormous waves and strong winds, one of the bracings connecting to the five-legged platform structure failed. The entire building tipped around thirty degrees before one last cable stabilised it. Nevertheless, the wire eventually broke because the tension became too great. The entire building collapsed as the platform fell into the deep sea, trapping several of the workers inside. After further examination, it was discovered that there had been a fatigue fracture in the weld of an instrumental connection on the bracing, which had gone unnoticed. This was a relatively minor issue that eventually had fatal results.

SEACREST DRILLSHIP – 3 November 1989

The Unocal Corporation owned the Seacrest, which was also referred to as the Scan Queen. The ship was anchored for drilling at the Platong oil field in the South China Sea, 430 kilometres south of Bangkok, when Typhoon Gay struck, with winds as high as 40 feet and gusts over 100 knots. The drillship was reported missing the next day, and on November 5 it was found to have capsized by a search aircraft. The rig capsized so fast, according to investigators, that the 91 crew members perished without having had chance to even act or send out a distress signal.

Oil Rig for Ocean Explorer, February 15, 1982 

A semi-submersible offshore drilling rig was called the Ocean Ranger. Even though it belonged to the Ocean Drilling and Exploration Company (ODECO), Mobil Oil of Canada had hired it to explore the Hibernia Field. With the capacity to drill 25,000 feet below the seabed and operate down to 1,500 feet below, it was one of the biggest rigs in the world at the time. However, during a storm, the upper deck and chain locker flooded, which resulted in a loss of buoyancy and the rig tipping over. The 84 workers on board perished in the icy waters.

October 25, 1983 – GLOMAR Java Sea Drillship

The American drillship Glomar Java Sea, owned by Global Marine Inc., disappeared in the South China Sea during a tropical cyclone. It took a week for search and rescue boats to find the debris, which was located around 300 feet below the surface. There were 42 Americans, 34 Chinese, 4 Britons, and 1 Australian on board. When Storm Lex moved towards the drillship from the east, it stopped operations and reported to Global Marine's Texas office that gusts over 75 knots were occurring over the bow. Forty-five crew members are still missing and assumed dead; just 36 bodies have ever been retrieved when the main office abruptly lost touch with the ship.

November 25, 1979 - BOHAI 2 OIL RIG

The Bohai 2 oil rig was the oldest oil rig owned by Chinese people when it began operations in the Gulf of Bohai, which is located between China and Korea. A strong storm struck the rig on November 25, 1979, while it was being towed. Strong winds caused the ventilation pump to break, opening a sizable hole in the deck that was soon filled with water. The rig finally capsized as a result of the flooding and the unfavourable weather at the time. To make matters worse, only four of the 76 workers on board could be rescued by the following tow boat since the crew members lacked the necessary training in emergency evacuation protocols and the usage of lifesaving equipment. Subsequent analyses revealed that the deck apparatus had not been securely stowed before being towed; if it had, more probably would have survived. Eventually, in 1981, the Yuntai Salvage Company employed explosives to recover the submerged rig.

ENCHOVA CENTRAL PLATFORM – 16 August 1984



In the Campos Basin, close to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Enchova Central Platform was in operation on August 16, 1984, when a blowout resulted in an explosion and ensuing fire on the platform. Most of the employees on board were saved from the catastrophe via helicopter or lifeboat evacuation. However, 42 other workers weren't that fortunate and perished. The lowering mechanism of a lifeboat malfunctioned in 36 of these deaths. The boat fell 20 metres into the sea when the supporting cables broke, leaving the bow hook broken and the vessel hanging vertically. When they had no other option but to jump from the platform into the sea, six other workers lost their lives. Amazingly, it The platform wasn't changed until eighteen months later, after another similar mishap.

BHN PLATFORM – MUMBAI HIGH NORTH- 25 July 2005



Situated in the Mumbai High oil field, the Bombay High North platform was run by the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) of India. However, the support ship Samudra Suraksha struck it on the day of the tragedy after being driven towards the platform by powerful swells. At least one of the platform's gas export risers leaked and later exploded as a result of the support vessel striking it. Not only did the fire kill 22, but it also severely destroyed the Noble Charlie Yester, a jack-up rig operating near the BHN platform, as well as the Samudra Suraksha.  Additionally, it resulted in a massive oil spill, resulting in the daily loss of 120,000 barrels of oil and 4.4 million cubic metres of gas. ONGC started a new platform in the month of October, 2012.

USUMACINTA JACK-UP- 23 October 2007

The Usumacznta jack-up platform and the PEMEX-operated Kab-101 platform collided in the Gulf of Mexico, causing this catastrophe. The latter's cantilever deck struck the Usumacinta producing tree as a result of storm conditions that produced waves as high as eight metres and gusts as strong as 130 km/h. The accident caused an oil and gas spill, and the crew of the Usumacinta tried to close the safety valves on two of the platform's production wells. They were unable to totally seal them off, though, and the leak that resulted eventually lit a fire on the platform. Another worker who vanished during the rescue efforts was also thought to be dead. Of the people who died during the evacuation, 21 were verified deceased.

C.P. BAKER DRILLING BARGE- June 30 1964

There was also the C.P. The Gulf of Mexico disaster involving the Baker Drilling Barge. While the barge was being used for drilling operations, there was a blowout. The main deck doors were left open, allowing water to seep in and contaminate the entire ship. The barge quickly lost power throughout, and a few minutes after the blast, an explosion caused the ship to burst into flames. Only 22 of the 43 workers on board managed to live by plunging into the sea after the crew was forced to leave ship. Thirteen people were missing, thought to be dead, and eight more were confirmed deceased.