FORMED IN THE WAKE OF THE PIPER ALPHA DISASTER
On the 6th of July 1988, the Piper Alpha disaster claimed the lives of 167 people and destroyed the Piper Alpha platform. This accident, which remains the worst offshore accident to this date, drew the attention of the offshore industry and the regulators to the damage that could be caused by an explosion or fire on an offshore platform, and led to many changes in the offshore regulatory and operating environment. These changes have shaped regimes we have today.
A new regulatory framework was introduced in the UK following the public inquiry by Lord Cullen. The oil and gas industry responded to the challenges presented by the disaster through wide ranging initiatives, including several Joint Industry Projects (JIPs) involving full scale fires and/or explosions. These initiatives substantially advanced our knowledge and understanding of hydrocarbon fires and explosions, and the way we design offshore facilities to prevent them and mitigate their effects. The combination of the new regulatory environment and the pro-active response of the industry resulted in a significant 'step-change' in the design and operation of offshore oil and gas installations in the North Sea and this has influenced the offshore industry worldwide.
ISSUE OF THE INTERIM GUIDANCE NOTES AND FORMATION OF FABIG
The first major research project that followed the disaster was Phase 1 of the JIP on Blast and Fire Engineering for Topside Structures (BFETS). Its 26 reports summarised the industry's understanding of fire and explosion engineering at the time. The project team also published the Interim Guidance Notes (IGN) for the Design and Protection of Topsides Structures against Explosion and Fire. These guidelines were branded as 'interim' due to significant gaps in knowledge and understanding of explosions and fires identified in the BFETS Phase 1 and in recognition of the need to supplement and update this guidance as new knowledge and experience emerged.
The Fire and Blast Information Group (FABIG) was created in March 1992 within this context of ongoing research and change in the industry, with a view to continue the collation, appraisal and dissemination of knowledge on hydrocarbon fires and explosions for the design of offshore and onshore facilities. The aim of FABIG was to produce specialist design guidance on fire and explosion engineering so as to update the IGN and provide a forum for sharing technical knowledge through Technical Meetings and Newsletters.
Over the years, FABIG has broadened its activities and now covers all fire and explosion hazards in the design and operation of industrial facilities.