First NCS licensing roundFrench oil merger

Sea Gem strikes gas on the UKCS

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
"BP strikes gas...North Sea Klondike" blared the headlines in the British press after the Sea Gem self-elevating barge (jack-up rig) struck gas in the southern North Sea, 68 kilometres off the River Humber. Later named West Sole, this was the first hydrocarbon discovery on the UKCS and the outcome of Sea Gem's fourth well in these waters.
— Sea Gem. Photo: Unknown
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Despite initiating what was hailed as a “gold rush” in the UK, the rig’s history ended tragically. Three months after the West Sole discovery, on 27 December, it was due to be moved three kilometres to drill a new well. While the deck was being jacked down, two of the eight legs were damaged and the rig overturned.

Men were thrown out of their bunks, while personnel on the drill floor fell straight into the icy water. No emergency signal was sent, because the first part of Sea Gem to disappear beneath the waves was the radio shack. A British cargo ship which was nearby and witnessed the event sent a Mayday call, and rescue vessels and helicopters were mobilised. By the time the helicopters arrived, the rig had sunk and only wreckage remained.

Of the 32-strong crew, 13 died and five were injured. Safety regulations on the UKCS were subsequently tightened. The most important provision was a requirement for a standby ship to be deployed close to every rig.

First NCS licensing roundFrench oil merger
Published October 24, 2017   •   Updated May 19, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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