Learning the lessons from explosion on FPSO Cidade de São Mateus

Nearly 3 years ago, in February 2015, the BW Offshore owned FPSO experienced a severe explosion during normal operation in Brazil for Petrobras. A relatively small condensate leak was ignited during clean-up operations, with personnel present. 9 employees died in the accident, and it took a long time before survivors onboard were rescued. It has been surprising how little interest there has been in learning lessons from this accident.

The high death toll was due to two unfortunate features, the use of pump room in stead of deep well pumps, and the location of the accommodation immedeately above engine room and pump room, in addition to the exposure of emergency teams to explosion hazard. Norwegian FPSOs all have accomodation in the bow and deep well pumps, but this is the first instance where the negative consequences of alternative choices have been demonstrated so clearly. It should be interesting to note for all involved in design of FPSOs.

It should be interesting for all involved in operations that when the root causes of the condensate leak were considered, they were shown to have quite some parallels with unignited hydrocarbon (HC) leaks in the Norwegian sector. During virtually 25 years, HC leaks in Norwegian offshore operations have been unignited, but the good fortune cannot be relied upon to last forever. The next leak in Norway could also become fatal. See the full paper about this tragic accident in Safety Science here (may require payment).

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