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Topic 59: Discuss the Strategy of Fire Safety and Prevention in Offshore Installations

victor.adukwu's picture

A fire must have three things to ignite and maintain combustion: Fuel, Heat and Oxygen. The basic strategy of fire prevention is to control or isolate sources of fuel and heat in order to prevent combustion. If all three are not present in sufficient quantities a fire will not ignite or a fire will not be able to sustain combustion.


Michail.Sevasteiadis's picture

Approaching this issue from the human side we could say that conducting training courses for the personnel is the best strategy to minimize the probability of a fire to happen or the workers safety after a fire.

The main procedures they should be taught I believe that are the following. What is the fire triangle, as Mr Adukwu said before, how to minimize the risk of a fire, to be ready for responding in fire situations, how to extinguish a fire, where are the fire fighting appliances around the installation, learn which are the flammable materials in situ and of course what to do in case they have to escape the installation. 



Derek Porter.'s picture

I would like to expand on the human training courses available. Every employee in the North Sea attends a basic fire fighting course as part of the BOSIET course (Basic offshore survival induction and training) shown in Ref 1.

Additionally there are weekly drills coupled with 2 separate fire teams present on the offshore structure. This team have extra training onshore called advanced fire fighting. These weekly courses introduce fire fighting codes, installation fire plans and equipment available including the techniques used in the mitigation. Furthermore, the fire safety certification is an essential part of the offshore installation. This is determined by the flag state of the structure. (Ref 2)

An additional aid comes from standby vessels. These vessels have equipment such as a fire monitor in order to tackle external fires and aid the evacuation process. The seamen that occupy this vessel are trained in advanced fire safety (Ref 1).

Ref 1 -
Ref 2 - Patrick Folan, Marine Superintendent Intermoor Marine Services.

Agba A. Imbuo's picture

Nice point from my colleague Michail on his views about the essentials of fire prevention. I will like to add that apart from conducting regular trainings, workshops and seminars to educate and enlighten personnel on fire prevention and safety, there should be provision for a quick response and rescue efforts in case an emergency occur. This is because accidents are inevitable and may occur as a result of human error or machine error and therefore advisable to design for a worse- case scenario. For an offshore installation, an approved code of practice and guidance (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations (1995) could be used as a guide to ensure that a maximum level of safety is achieved . It is aimed at all those who own, operate or work on offshore installations and looks at how to prevent fires and explosions as well as how to protect people working on offshore installations should they occur. It also looks at how to respond to emergencies, considering issues such as escape, evacuation, rescue and recovery.


Catriona Ogg's picture

To expand on the previous comments regarding fire prevention, the UK stipulates a number of regulations (The Offshore Installations Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response regulations 1995) which highlights specific safety guidelines for fire prevention offshore.  Some of these measures include:
-ensuring the approriate handling, transportation and use of flammable/explosive materials (trained and informed personnel)
-safe and secure storage of flammable/explosive materials (away from sources of ignition, no chance of leakages)
-trying to avoid accumulation of large quantities of such materials; intuitively the more flammable material stored on a facility the greater the risk of a fire and also its severity should one occur
-not using such hazardous materials unless it is absolutely necessary

Furthermore, it will also be necessary for the facility to incorporate fire detection systems; the sooner the fire is detected the sooner the response procedure can be implemented thus maximizing its effectiveness.  Such systems would need to be able to detect smoke and other toxic gas accumulations, flammable liquid leakages and fluctuations in control conditions for combustible materials.

Omololu Oyebola's picture

This is a good topic from my colleague Victor and seriously do not know why this topic on fire safety has not been on this blog from inception as fire incident is the most probable of happenings offshore.  Fire safety in the oil and gas industry has become a subject of increasing importance in recent years spurred by several fire accidents and incidents such as the San Juanico in Mexico City and the most common Piper Alpha fire in UK highlighted the need for strict regulations on the need to reduce hazards(Santos-Reyes, Beard 2000) . The following are modalities for fire prevention offshore laid down by the HSE and if strictly adhered to will reduce offshore fire incidence (Official HSE website).
• Operators should ensure safe production area and material storage should be handled properly
• Prevention of flammable substance should be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable
• Reduce accumulation of combustibles
• Control of hot work process, and if the need be, appropriate Lock Out and Tag Out be used, to ensure that no untrained personnel tampers with any process facility
• For emergency situations, mitigation methods such as deluge systems, fixed extinguishing systems, fire-resistant coatings, manual response equipment and procedures, ventilation control systems, fire and blast walls must be accessible and onsite workers should be well trained to use these equipment
Fire prevention is key to reducing offshore fire. Arrangements for recovery and rescue, the use of personal protective equipment for use in an emergency are also important

SANTOS-REYES, J. and BEARD, A.N., 2000. A Systemic Approach to Managing Fire Safety on Offshore Installations, Offshore Technology Conference, - 2000

Aleksandr Poljakov's picture

I agree with my colleagues that fire
safety is very important especially on the offshore installations. I want to
point out that fire and explosions are the most common safety hazards that safety
engineers have to deal with due to the nature of the facilities. Fire protection
and reaction to the fire should be well-designed and satisfy H&S
legislation for the offshore fire prevention. Fire evacuation strategy and
alerting system should also be implemented as a part of fire response
procedures. Active fire protection should also be used where necessary and
depending on the area where the fire has originated, whether it is automatic
extinguishing system with sprinklers or something else.

Aleksandr Poljakov, MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

Aleksandr Poljakov's picture

I would also like to mention that structural
design of the system and adequate passive fire protection for and offshore
facility is vital. If the structural integrity of the structure is jeopardised
whether it is due to explosion or fire, the consequences of that can be very
drastic. Most of the offshore structure use steel as a main structural component,
which has a very good thermal conductivity and poor performance. This may
result in failure of the offshore structure, leading to high financial losses
and possibly losses of human life. Passive protection of the main structural
members is usually used on an offshore installation, with intumescent paint
being the most popular one used for the type of structure. The paint expands
during the fire, which provides protection for steel members of 2 hours, when
personnel and everyone on the structure can be evacuated and fire extinguished.

Aleksandr Poljakov, MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

Dear all,


On offshore and onshore installation, fire protection and prevention is given particularly high priority. There are basically 2 category in dealing with FGS system, management and technical. 


Management step will focus on emergencies step for instance, if an alarm were to go off, what are the mitigation process are (i.e : personnel to gather at assembly area, head count, initiate ERT). 


The second category dealt with technical stuff such as FGS instrumentation (smoke detectors, Open path IR gas detectors, toxic gas detector, flame detector etc), explosion proof equipments (Ex), Instrically safe (IS) equipments, blast wall, water sprinkler, CO2/Nitrogen purging system and many more.


These are being put in place to mitigate fire and gas risk.



Anas Abd Rahman

Jonathan Ogbekhilu's picture


The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) places general duties on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable (ALARP), the health and safety of their employees, and others who might be affected by their undertaking.

This demand is implemented in The Prevention of Fire, Explosion and Emergency Rescue (PFEER) Regulations. The PFEER requires, in compliance with the HSW Act , that:
1. It make provision for preventive and protective measures to manage fire and explosion (Includes detection mechanism, control, suppression and mitigations)
2. And to secure effective emergency response (escape, evacuation, rescue and recovery Planning)

Principally, the first point manifest more in the design, manufacturing of fire detection and firefighting products and equipment, instrumentation, classification zoning.

The other side involves the planning and management of escape, evacuation, rescue and recovery in the event that a fire event has occurred and to reduce the risk as low as possible

Ref: Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995 Approved Code of Practice and guidance


Jon Ogbekhilu

Adejugba Olusola's picture

I will like to add to the discussion on fire safety offshore. In the case of fire detection offshore, systems are in place which are set in motion to respond to such detection. Known as Active Fire Protection Systems, they include water sprinkler and spray systems. Deluge systems, foam systems and fire hydrants which are common features on offshore installations are examples of fire fighting equipment available offshore for fire fighting.  The response required of the protection system may be to extinguish the fire, control the fire or provide exposure protection to prevent escalation. The active fire system offshore is usually supplied by a secure water supply such as diesel fire water pumps which have back up to ensure demand can be met at all times. Depending on the fire & gas philosophy, a 2 X 100% FW pump capacity or in some cases a 3 X 100% fire water pump capacity is available to ensure availability of firewater in an emergency.

Automatic response to a fire can come from automatic fire & gas detection devices such as use of fire and gas detectors, smoke detectors, fusible plugs or optical flame detectors. An example of a chain of events is when the active fire protection system is required as a mitigation measure, upon detection of flammable gas vapour in an area by gas detectors which can be used in a voting system, a response is required. Depending on the cause and effects chart, the detection system controls the main valve to the deluge system close to the area where the gas is detected which is activated to allow large amounts of water to flow quickly through to the deluge heads. The pipe system in the deluge system is usually empty until the deluge system is operated to supply pressurized water from the open nozzles or sprinkler heads. The supply of water through the deluge is expected to suppress such fire, displace the flammable vapour or prevent escalation of an existing fire and usually this happens in conjunction with a shutdown of process equipment and operations in the affected area.

Adejugba Olusola

Adejugba Olusola's picture

To follow on from my initial contribution to this discussion on active fire protection, another type of fire protection used offshore is Passive Fire Protection Systems which provides an alternative to active systems for protecting against vessel or structural failure. This generally consists of a coating of fire resistant insulating media applied to a vessel or steel surface and are often used where water or other active protection media supplies are inadequate[1}. Other forms of passive fire protection is the use of fire walls, blast walls to prevent exposure of equipment of personnel to thermal radiation in the event of a fire or explosion. The duration of the protection required, the type of fire that is reasonably foreseeable in the area and the limiting temperature for the structure of equipment being protected are factors that affect the type of PFP system selected{2}.

Types of passive fire protection that can be applied include{1}:

  • Mortar based coating

  • Intumescent coating

  • Sublimation coating

  • Mineral fibre matting

  • Earth mounds

Typically, a Fire and Explosion Risk Analysis will be completed to identify the fire and explosion hazards in a process area and will assess the magnitude of the hazards to provide input into the passive and active fire protection selection and will also provide input into the hazardous area classification and fire & gas philosophy for the platform.

Passive Fire Protection is also applied to vessel skirts and included in the protection of evacuation and rescue areas, escape routes, access and egress routes and structural support for the Temporary Refuge.

Regular inspection and maintenance of PFP is required to ensure they continue meeting performance criteria defined in their Performance Standards.




Adejugba Olusola

Kyeyune Joseph's picture

The biggest cause of fire at offshore installations is loss of containment. As such, measures are put in place to minimise chances of its occurrence or its consequences in case of occurrence. This forms the strategy of fire safety and prevention and it consists of the following key measures: (1) prevention (2) detection (3) control of escalation (4) evacuation, escape and rescue. These can be briefly elaborated as follows:

Prevention is achieved by strict adherence to design standards and codes, maximising quality assurance during design and construction for key components, prevention of leakages by use proper devices like seals, gaskets and ensuring proper communication during operations. Additionally, area classification into zones basing on risk of ignition and possibly explosion due to presence of flammable vapour or gases is done. This is important especially in selection of electrical tools for use in such areas. Use of safety instrument systems such as High integrity pressure protection systems is also vital.
Detection involves use of systems that can detect any deviation from normal operation. For instance, pressure sensors detecting deviation in pressure, gas detectors sensing any leakages or even fire detectors so as to alert protection systems like emergency shutdown valves to operate.
Control and prevention of escalation involves use of systems such as water filled fire deluge system placed in all potential areas where fire may occur so as to supress it. Passive fire protection systems are also used for members that can easily be destroyed by fire. This can be in form of specially treated concrete around pipes.  Additionally, explosion walls/doors can be built in such areas where explosions may be predicted. These can explode relieving excess pressures created by explosion thus minimising damage to adjacent equipment.
Finally in case of failure of all the above, the strategy involves planned evacuation with use of helicopter, escape with use of life rafts, chute systems or ladders and then rescue so as to minimise fatalities.


J.Santos- Reyes and A.N Beard, Herriot Watt University, a systematic approach to managing fire safety at offshore installations. paper presented at annual OTC, May 1-4 2000. SPE 12157, available at onepetro.

Derek Porter.'s picture

AS there does not seem to be a 'debate' in this topic I would also like to introduce the additional portable and fixed fire response methods. These include extinguishers, blankets, mist and CO2 distribution. This leads me onto the important topic. There used to be an additional distributed gas product used named HALON 1301. This was phased out in 2003/2004 on all North Sea platforms shown in Ref 1.

There are more than 20 different alternatives available for the use as stated in Ref 2. One of which is CO2 gas, common on many offshore installations. With the risk of hypercapnia (Ref 3), is this an additional hazard that is used to solve a hazard? Can anyone expand on this?

Ref 1 - Advice on alternatives and guidelines for users of fire fighting and explosion protection systems, phase out of Halons, Department of trade and industry.
Ref 2 -
Ref 3 -

Oghenekevwe Ovbije's picture

The oil and gas industry has till date suffered from varying degrees of fire incidents like in:
1.San Juanico – Mexico City, 1984
2.Piper Alpha Fire – UK, 1988

After these incidents, the oil and gas industry increased their safety performance by incorporating the Prevention of Fire, Explosion and Emergency Response (PFEER) regulation. This regulation basically addresses the prevention of fires and explosions.

Despite the regulations put in place, the most efficient means of reducing the probability of fire and its associated risk is by prevention. There are two major ways of preventing fire incidents namely; passive prevention (PFP) and active control and protection [1]

•“Passive Prevention provides thermal protection to restrict the rate at which heat is transmitted to the object or area being affected”
•Active Protection consist of several systems that may require human intervention to initiate”


[1] A Systemic Approach to Managing Fire Safety on Offshore Installations. Offshore Technology Conference; - 2000; Houston, Texas; 2000.

Thomas James Smith's picture

As a result of the piper alpha disaster there were a number of recommendations made to improve the safety of production facilities in the north sea.  Those that are most relevant to this topic would be the requirement for fire and explosion protection (this includes fire proofing to prevent escalation, fire fighting apparatus, and explosion survivability), the requirements for temporary safe refuge (Safe area with a breathable atmosphere (No smoke ingress) close to evacuation points), more than one route for evacuation and escape (The Piper alpha had many dead ends and routes with only one way in or out, recommendations made to have more than one escape route from all parts of the installation) the use of explosion simulation in design (this provides details of blast over and under pressure and provides the engineering team vital load information for design).

Thomas James Smith's picture

Fire and gas detection is an important part of hazard escalation prevention.  

An effective Fire and gas system that detects an event early enough to prevent escalation is an essential protection layer for the protection of the platform personnel (gas or fire).  All hydrocarbon areas should be assessed, and certified gas detectors installed.  Gas detectors used to be located around potential leak paths i.e. around vessel nozzles and flanges, but it has now been realised that due to air movement within the modules or process areas, that this isn’t necessarily the best place to detect potential gas clouds.  Current thinking is to create a grid with your detectors using combinations of line of sight gas detectors and point gas detectors to detect the potential gas clouds.  An operator I recently worked for used a 10m grid for open areas and 5m for enclosed.

ikenna_ekekwe's picture

The primary objective of fire protection is to protect personnel, the environment, the assets and reputation against the effects of fires and explosions that may occur on a given facility, without endangering the lives of emergency response personnel (fire fighters & rescue teams) and without incurring untenable costs or maintenance requirements or adversely impacting on the environment. In general, all (existing and new) facilities must undergo the process of identification, assessment, control and recovery with specific attention to potential of fire & explosions at the facilities.

In every stage of the process, the most appropriate/recommended methods to be used to assure protection against fire must be defined. The primary objective of fire protection, detection and fire fighting facilities should be the preservation of human life. For manned, normally unmanned and unmanned offshore complexes/facilities, the first line of defence is gas/fire detection followed by automatic isolation and dependant on the strategic importance of the facility, blow-down of the facilities.

While all facilities are to be equipped with manual fire fighting equipment, manned complexes would also be equipped with fire water ring main systems, sprinkler systems, localised water mist systems and supported by trained fire fighters (trained in accordance with OPITO requirements). The prime objective of the fire team is to perform rescue operations, assist in securing the escape/evacuation of staff and fighting of minor fires.


Ekekwe Ikenna




Edwin Lawrance's picture

Fire and explosions are nightmares for the offshore and
onshore platforms, generally these accidents depend upon certain platform specific
features like type of processing used, inventory volume, topside layout, number
of employees inside the platform etc. In all the stages of oil and gas
production, fire and explosion hazards must be managed. To manage these situations
 properly; identification of the hazards,
analysis, creating a safe design to reduce the hazards, providing mitigation
measures for all the hazards, verification of the strategies, documentation,
communication and implementation. After the construction of the platform it is
necessary to take a thermal image of the platform to recognise the places that
gets heated up when the platform is live. Similarly flaring must be done according
to the direction of wind or else sometimes can initiate damages to the platform.

Akuromawaye Apiambo's picture

The protection of an offshore installation
is key to any company, thus safety is paramount in the offshore market. The
strategy of fire safety and prevention lies and based in the fire protection

The main purpose of this system is to protect personnel by
providing escape routes, protect equipment and components by minimising fire
escalation and to buy time so that any fire can be brought under control.

There are two types of fire protection,
active and passive. Active fire protection systems are activated either mechanically
 or electronically (automatically). A
typical example of an active fire protection system would be sprinklers and
deluge systems. Passive fire protection refers to fire resistant compartments,
for example consisting of fire resistant walls or doors.


Protection. [Online]. Available from:

05 December 2012].


Apiambo, Akuro


Ojo Oluwayimika Joseph's picture

Fires on offshore process installations are different to those in process plants onshore, andespecially different from normal building fires. The effect of enclosure on fire severity bothfor liquid pool fires and gas fires, the devastating effect of impinging jet fires from high pressuregas leakages, the threat to people from smoke and heat are major considerations forfire modellers and experimenters. The importance of prevention contingencies on offshore platforms can never be over emphasized. The design of most fixed platforms offshore suggest this as accommodation, landing and evacuation areas are quite separate from processing and equipment regions. This is done to minimize the number of fatalities during a fire accident.

Some methods put in place to control a fire in the case of an outbreak include the use of sprinkler or deluge systems, the use of fine water spray and other fire fighting equipment that must have been pre installed such as simple fire extinguishers. Also there is the problem of smoke contamination afterwards and this can be controlled by simply blocking such smoke from entering areas where personnel are present before their safe escape, evacuation or rescue.  


Fires on offshore process installations are different to those in process plants onshore, andespecially different from normal building fires. The effect of enclosure on fire severity bothfor liquid pool fires and gas fires, the devastating effect of impinging jet fires from high pressuregas leakages, the threat to people from smoke and heat are major considerations forfire modellers and experimenters. The importance of prevention contingencies on offshore platforms can never be over emphasized. The design of most fixed platforms offshore suggest this as accommodation, landing and evacuation areas are quite separate from processing and equipment regions. This is done to minimize the number of fatalities during a fire accident. Some methods put in place to control a fire in the case of an outbreak include the use of sprinkler or deluge systems, the use of fine water spray and other fire fighting equipment that must have been pre installed such as simple fire extinguishers. Also there is the problem of smoke contamination afterwards and this can be controlled by simply blocking such smoke from entering areas where personnel are present before their safe escape, evacuation or rescue.   




Ragnar Wighus. Fires on an Offshore Process Installations




Ojo Oluwayimika Joseph   


Oil and Gas Engineering

Elle Allswell David's picture

Three major things must be available for fire to ignite, these are Fuel, Oxygen and Heat.

The risk of fire incidence is always high both in offshore platforms and ships as a result of oil and hydraulic spills. To prevent a fire incidence is better than fighting fire. The Basic thing is to always keep the floor free from oil and hydraulic spills by cleaning the floor and always ensure that mechanical couplings are always in order.

The basic training for an offshore worker requires him to be able to fight fire in the case of any fire emergency. There should always be fire drill conducted for workers and Fire Estinguishers be placed in locations where it can easily be accessed. Workers should always avoid generating any source of heat that will be capable of igniting fire and in the case of excess heat from any component it should immediately be reported and maintenance carried on such component.

CONCLUSION: To prevent fire offshore workers should try to keep two of the three major factors responsible for fire to a minimum level which are Fuel, and heat, this is because Oxygen which is also a factor is required for Human survival.

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