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Oil Rig Disasters – A History of Oil Rig Explosions, Major Accidents, & More
major oil rig explosion

The oil industry is a dangerous business – no one is more aware of that fact than the workers who earn a living on offshore oil rigs. The combination of heavy machinery and combustible materials creates the ever-present risk of explosion and other oil rig disasters. Sadly, the history books are filled with fatal offshore drilling disasters.

The deadliest oil rig explosion in history occurred in 1988 on the Piper Alpha oil platform in the North Sea, 120 miles off the coast of Scotland. A gas leak on the platform led to a massive explosion, which ultimately took the lives of 167 workers. It is believed that the gas leak occurred due to a miscommunication on the platform, and the devastation was exacerbated by a lack of proper safety training.

The Piper Alpha disaster, like many oil rig accidents, led to the adoption of more stringent safety procedures in the oil and gas industry. In the 30 years since then, oil and drilling companies and government regulators have continued to work toward minimizing oil platform disasters. Despite these efforts, the risk of a major oil rig disaster remains present.

Major Oil and Gas Accidents

The following are some of the deadliest oil rig disasters of the 21st century.


The Usumacinta blowout occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007. An incoming storm caused the oil rig to collide with a wellhead, leading to an oil and gas leak. The platform eventually caught fire, and, despite an attempted evacuation by lifeboat, 22 workers died because of the accident.

Mumbai High North

In 2005, a support vessel collided with the Mumbai High North oil platform off the coast of India, causing a gas leak which quickly ignited. The oil rig explosion and resulting fire, coupled with the lack of adequate fire protection, completely destroyed the platform and left 22 workers dead.

Petrobras P-36

Petrobras P-36 was a semi-submersible oil platform operating off the coast of Brazil. In 2001, two explosions onboard killed 11 people and caused the platform to sink. The first explosion is believed to have been caused by a ruptured emergency drain tank due to increased pressure. The second explosion on board was the result of an ignited gas leak.

Deepwater Horizon

In 2010, a blowout caused an explosion and fire on board the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which was located only 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The accident killed 11 workers, injured 17, and sank the rig. This oil platform disaster also led to the largest offshore oil spill in history.

Bourbon Dolphin

The Bourbon Dolphin was a supply vessel attempting to anchor a semi-submersible oil platform off the coast of Scotland when she capsized, leaving eight people either dead or missing. In the aftermath, government officials questioned whether the vessel and its crew were equipped to handle the task.

Al Mariyah

In 2000, the main deck of the Al Mariyah jack-up collapsed while on location off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The oil rig accident killed four workers and injured eight.

Abkatun Permanente

In August of 2015, unusually high waves caused a crash and subsequent explosion on board the Abkatun Permanente oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Workers reportedly jumped into the sea to avoid the flames, and four workers died in the accident.

oil rig disaster platform

Compensation for oil rig disaster injuries

Although rare, offshore drilling disasters are unfortunately still a risk inherent in the oil industry. As in any catastrophic accident, the injured victims and family members of workers killed in oil rig accidents are often entitled to compensation for their losses. However, oil and gas accidents are more complicated than most personal injury cases, owing to the numerous parties working at each drill site, as well as the complexity of the oil drilling operation.

Handling an oil rig disaster case requires a particular type of lawyer. Specific industry knowledge is required to understand an oil rig accident and determine its cause. Furthermore, an attorney handling such a case must be well-versed in the intricate regulations that apply to the oil and gas industry. Therefore, if you or a family member has been injured in an oil rig explosion or other accident, you should retain an oilfield injury lawyer with specific experience in the petrochemical industry.

Contact a Texas oil rig accident attorney

The Law Office of Richard Schechter, P.C. has represented the interests of injured oil and gas workers for over 35 years. We have the experience and familiarity with the oil industry to maximize your recovery after an offshore injury. Most importantly, we work tirelessly to make sure our clients and their families are made whole after an oil rig disaster.

To find out how we can help you, please contact our office today for a free consultation.


About the Author

Richard Schechter
Richard Schechter

A Passion for Justice