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Other Fires

Mumbai High North Platform Fire, India

Overview

Location: Mumbai offshore, India
Fire Event: 27 July 2005
A vessel collided with the offshore Mumbai High North platform, 160 km west of the Mumbai coast, causing a major fire, completely destroying the platform and resulting in 11 deaths and 11 others missing.
Fire duration = 2 hours
Fire Damage: Complete collapse of the platform
Construction Type: Steel
Fire Resistance: No information available
Function: Oil and natural gas processing platform
Dimensions: 7 storeys

The Platform

The Mumbai (or Bombay) High field is India's largest offshore oil and gas field. The Mumbai High Basin is 75 km long and 25 km wide, located in the Arabian Sea about 160 km west of the Mumbai coast. The oil and gas field is divided into the north and south blocks and has been operating by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) since 1974.

The Mumbai High North (MHN) platform, a 30 years old 7-storey steel structure, was an oil and natural gas processing complex which had a capacity of 80,000 barrels per day of crude production (see Figure 1). It was connected to an unmanned NA drilling platform, the BHF platform with residential quarters and the WIN platform also with residential quarters. All these were interconnected by bridges. The MHN facility separated oil and gas carried by risers from the nearby wells, below the NA and BHF platforms, and sent them onshore by separate undersea pipelines.

Figure 1 The Mumbai High North platform is at the middle of the photo (Photo: ONGC)

Fire Protection System

No information is currently available in the public domain.

The Fire

On 27 July 2005, a multi-purpose support (MPS) vessel collided into the MHN and ruptured a riser carrying oil from the undersea wells to the MHN facility at 04:05 India time, resulting in the break out of a major fire. At that time, the MPS was engaged in a medical evacuation operation in which an injured cook aboard was being transferred to the MHN for medical treatment.

However, in heavy wind and high tide, the MSV reportedly lost control and collided with a riser. The riser broke and crude oil started leaking. The oil caught fire and gas, under high pressure, began to escape. It was reported that a ball of flame fell on the MHN and there was explosion on the platform.

The fire was so intense that the MHN was abandoned in accordance with the disaster mangement plan of offshore operators. Within two hours, the whole platform collapsed into the sea with a few foundation piers left (see Figure 2). A Pawan helicopter positioned on it was also lost.

The MPS also caught fire and was towed away by another multi-purpose support vessel but sank on 1 August 2005, about 12 nautical miles from the Mumbai coastline.

A total of 384 personnel were on the MHN complex, the two MPS vessels and an offshore oil rig Noble Charlie Yester at that time. Among them, 11 people died and 11 others were reported missing. The rest were rescued by a combined force of offshore supply vessels, helicopters, and vessels of Indian Navy and Coast guards.

The flow of oil and gas from the affected wells was shut down through the sub-surface safety valves, preventing a large area of pollution.

Figure 2 The Mumbai High North platform was completely destroyed (Photo: ONGC)

The Damage

The MHN was completely destroyed in the 2005 fire, along with a helicopter positioned in it. The multi-purpose support vessel causing the fire sank few days later.

Analysis

The incident shows the catastrophic consequence of an oil rig fire. The unlimited supply of fuel and oxygen normally contribute to the extremely rapid growth and spread of the fire.

Under normal practice, a multi purpose support vessel can only engage an oil rig under normal weather conditions. In addition, the incident vessel was a dynamically positioned vessel with computer-controlled thrusters which could remain in one position on the sea. It was still not clear why the vessel went so close to the MHN, went out of control and hit the riser.

Sources of Information

  • BBC News Online / World / South Asia - UK Edition
  • Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (India). (2005) Suo Moto Statement in the Lok Sabha By Petroleum Minister in Respect of Fire Accident in Mumbai High North Platform 0f ONGC.
  • Subramanian, T.S. (2003). "Special Feature: ONGC - For a new high." Frontline, 20(02).
  • Subramanian, T.S. and Katakam, A. (2005). "Disaster-A platform lost." Frontline, 22(17).
 
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