Concrete, man-made structures, anchored to the sea bed by steel legs, in the middle of the ocean, tend to clash with waves. Storms, typhoons and tidal waves are notorious for destabilizing oil rigs or oil platforms, which then cause widespread damage to the local ecology, coastal towns and the environment.
When a wave overcomes an oil rig, fatalities of up to 100 men and damages costing hundreds of millions of dollars often occur. Platforms with highly destructive potential in such a precarious setting frequently mean disaster, and when oil rigs verse waves, waves always win.
1. Alexander L. Kielland Disaster
On March 27, 1980 on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, an oil platform of Philips Petroleum serving as a floating hotel for crew workers collapsed into the ocean. One of the support braces on its legs was weakened by ocean wear and tear. This caused the entire leg to drown, tilting the platform into the water. Crew workers desperate for their lives jumped onto lifeboats, but waves beating against the platform crushed the men against the concrete; 129 men were killed in the disaster.
2. Seacrest Drillship Disaster
On November 3, 1989 in the Gulf of Thailand, 91 international crew members of the Seacrest Drillship drowned in Typhoon Gay. The eye of Typhoon Gay actually passed over the Seacrest, further exacerbating the weather’s hold on the platform. The 4,400-ton oil rig could not withstand the tumultuous sea and the enormous waves of the storm and after hours of destabilization, it eventually capsized.
3. Usumacinta Disaster
Three years ago, in the Gulf of Mexico, a Mexican oil rig called the Perforadora Central Usumacinta Jack-Up went under in storm winds of 130km/hr and waves reaching 8 m. The turbulence caused by the waves jolted the rig upwards, striking a production valve of a neighboring oil platform, resulting in a massive leakage of oil and gas. Before the Usumacinta could be fully evacuated, a spark caused an explosion when 21 crew members were still on board.
4. Glomar Java Sea Drillship Disaster
On October 25, 1983, a wave in the South China Sea capsized the 6,000-ton Glomar Java Sea Drillship, killing all 81 crew members on board. Less than half of the bodies were ever recovered, the rest given permanently over to the ferocious waves.
5. Bohai 2 Disaster
On November 25, 1979, in the Gulf of Bohai, an oil platform owned by the Ocean Oil Company met the wave of its destruction. Said wave flew over the main deck, crashing into and thus breaking a ventilator pump. The shattered ventilator pump fell through the deck, flooding the lower levels, and eventually causing the rig to capsize, killing 72 of the 74 crew members. Such disasters demonstrate how waves will never lie peacefully beneath an oil rig.