Petrobras P-36 Accident

Sara Whelan

Abstract


Petrobas P-36 was a floating offshore production unit operating in the Roncador Field, off the coast of Brazil, commencing operations May 2000. This structure was originally designed as a floating drilling unit and was modified from 1997 to 1999, into a floating production unit. These modifications included major equipment additions as well as structural upgrades.
On March 20, 2001 Petrobas P-36 capsized and sank after a series of explosions. The initial explosion has been attributed to the poor alignment of the emergency drain tank (EDT) to the production heater, the proximity of these structures allowed for the accumulation of hydrocarbons, eventually resulting in an explosion. After the initial explosion, volatile gas was provided with an escape route, this resulted in a second explosion, which caused major structural damage and the eventual sinking of the Petrobas P-36.
The accident was accredited to three major factors they include: mechanical component design flaws, human errors and economical factors. Investigations into the accident identify three mechanical design flaws these include: poor design placement of key safety-critical paths, component failure without sufficient backup and poor control of the emergency notification system layout.
As a result of the accident three major changes/consequences occurred: firstly they include the economical impact and financial losses that were experienced by Peterobas, though the increased cost of operations as well as the loss of assets. Secondly, there was development and modification of rules and standards for oil exploration for offshore Brazil, hopefully this will prevent a similar accident from reoccurring. The last consequence associated with the event was the environmental impact from oil loss.
Lessons learned as a result of the Petrobas P-36 accident amplified the importance of conducting safe operations and ensuring procedures are in place to help mitigate accidents; it is of uttermost importance to ensure redundancy in high-risk areas are adequate. The accident also illustrated the importance of training crew and personnel adequately, ensuring they understand equipment requirements and protocol associated with equipment. The last lesson learned for the incident is that operators must be responsible for establishing a mythology to prioritize efforts in emergency situations.

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