One Injured in Fire on Tern Alpha Platform

Tern Alpha (file image courtesy TAQA)

Published Oct 15, 2019 3:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, a fire broke out at TAQA's Tern Alpha platform, located about 90 nm to the northeast of the Shetland Islands in the UK North Sea. One worker was injured and medevaced by helicopter to Lerwick for treatment. 

According to local media, a small fire started on Tern Alpha on Monday afternoon. The platform shut down temporarily and the fire was quickly extinguished. One worker suffered an arm injury due to the fire, prompting a medevac request to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. An HM Coastguard helicopter out of Sumburgh flew to Tern Alpha to carry the injured worker to shore. 

An investigation into the cause of the incident is under way, and production was expected to resume Tuesday. TAQA told media that the worker has already been discharged from the hospital. 

The Tern platform was built by Shell in the late 1980s, and it handles production from its own reservoir and from the nearby Hudson, Kestrel, Cladhan and Falcon fields. It was operated under a joint Shell / Exxon license until 2008, when it was sold to Abu Dhabi state oil company TAQA.Tern and the nearby Eider, North Cormorant, South Cormorant, Kestrel and Pelican fields were in decline, and Shell offered them to TAQA as a package for about $680 million. At the time of sale, the fields produced a combined 25-40,000 bpd, down from a peak of 200,000 bpd in the early 1990s. 

TAQA has been investing in both plug-and-abandonment work and life extension measures for its North Sea holdings, including a conversion of the aging Eider production platform to a "utility" support role. Today, the firm's entire European portfolio produces about 40,000 bpd. 

Fire breaks out on Heather Alpha

In a separate incident Monday, a fire broke out on EnQuest's Heather Alpha platform, a 1978-built installation about 25 nm south of Tern Alpha. The fire was quickly put out, EnQuest told media, but two workers were injured and had to be evacuated. Both have already been discharged from the hospital. 

Last March, several gas detectors were triggered on Heather Alpha after a release from a flare system which was extinguished during operation. Gas detectors picked up the leak, triggering an immediate automated shutdown. The UK Health and Safety Executive determined that the incident exposed 131 workers on Healther Alpha to the risk of a fire or explosion.