In November we welcomed an exciting new addition to our Science and Technology collections: the Flare Tip from the recently decommissioned Murchison Oil Platform.
The Flare Tip, which was kindly donated by Canadian Natural Resources International (UK) Ltd, is substantial and robust, weighing almost a ton and standing almost four metres in height.
In my previous blog post on Collecting Contemporary Energy, I discussed some of the reasons we collect in this field and presented some (smaller) artefacts from the Murchison Platform which already reside in National Museums Scotland’s collection. The Flare Tip is a valuable addition, and in this post I’ll explore the reasons why.
Gas flaring is a procedure used on oil rigs to burn off surplus pressurised gas released during the drilling process; it is a pivotal technology that makes oil extraction possible. The flare tip is often the highest point of these mammoth structures, but usually experienced only remotely; their stature not fully evident in photographs and video footage.
A worker must climb hundreds of stairs to inspect the tip; it is lit by shooting a flare to ignite the gas. The Flare Tip brings to light the macro-industrial technology of the North Sea oil industry. It also emphasises the riskier and more dangerous side of offshore work and the challenging environment that many people must face in order to do their job.
The Murchison Platform was installed in 1979, named after Scottish geologist Sir Roderick Murchison. It was among the first in a wave of North Sea decommissioning, with its dismantling completed earlier in 2017. Whilst oil exploration is still occurring in the North Sea, gradually platforms are being removed. This is a highly complex process and one which is still in its infancy. Extinguishing the flare in 2014 represented the end of the working life of a massive platform.
The Flare Tip is currently in storage at the National Museums Collections Centre, awaiting the production of a custom-made stand. While there are no immediate plans for display, we hope that it can form part of our exhibitions in the coming years. The Flare Tip is an ideal point around which the public can engage with a number of developing stories, including society’s relationship with fossil fuels, the future of the North Sea oil industry and its impact on Scotland, and the future of our country’s energy sector.
Communications, transport, industry, engineering, energy and medicine: how have scientific and technological inventions changed our lives? Explore the history of innovation in Scotland and across the world through interactive games and thought-provoking displays in our Science and Technology galleries at the National Museum of Scotland.