Cricket and well control: How sport can teach industry new lessons in training

Posted on 17 September 2012

Although the sport of cricket and the drilling industry are vastly different, both fields do require individuals to be properly trained in order to perform effectively.

The world of cricket isn’t normally associated with the drilling industry, but there may be lessons from this sport to apply to well control training.

Cricket demands the mastery of skills in many different areas, just as controlling a well on a drilling rig does. In both fields, individuals need to be properly trained in order to perform effectively.

Top cricketers in the UK are developed using a five-stage training program:

  • Fundamentals;
  • Learn to Train;
  • Train to Train;
  • Train to Compete; and
  • Train to Win.

During the Fundamentals stage, the ABCs are developed. These are agility, balance, coordination and speed. A variety of exercises are used to develop the ABCs, focusing on core skills instead of cricket itself. A coach will have kids chase a ball, pick it up, turn and throw it at a target to develop all four skills areas. He will introduce an element of competition into the exercises and ensure that every coaching session ends with a fun game of some kind. Variety, enjoyment and participation are key to developing the ABCs – get critical or boring at this stage and you have lost that kid forever.

The safe development of cricket-specific movements is worked on through the Learn to Train stage. Batting and bowling properly require specific techniques to be learned. During this stage, the coach will work with players to ensure they develop correct technique and that their technique will not cause them injury in the short or long term.

Once again, enjoyment and participation are key.

Throughout the Train to Train stage, there is an increased focus on technical skills, with an individual’s attitude and behavior toward the game also being addressed. The coach will work individually with them to enhance their basic technique.

In the Train to Compete stage, competitive awareness starts to come to the forefront. Players work on small variations and strategies that can make the difference between success and failure. Technique is improved through focused individual coaching sessions, and lessons are learned from previous matches played.

During the final stage – Train to Win – optimum performance is maintained and pressure is applied in the training process. By this stage, players will be playing a very high level of cricket. Coaching will be tailored to the individual, and many hours may be spent working on very detailed changes to technique.

Through the whole process, individuals have to master one stage before moving on to the next. Coaches also change the way they work with individuals from a “show and copy” style to an “explore, agree and stretch” style as players develop their abilities and understanding.

5 stages of cricket training
1: Fundamentals
2: Learn to Train
3: Train to Train
4: Train to Compete
5: Train to Win

5 stages of well control training

1: 123s
2: Introducing Well Control
3: First-line Well Control
4: Supervisory Well Control
5: Advanced Well Control

Relevance for drilling

What can industry’s well control training programs take from this training approach? Cricket training takes 12 years before pressure is applied on the trainees. In many cases, well control training starts when an individual needs a certificate for his or her job and gets sent to well control school.

Perhaps a better approach would be to implement a five-stage program that takes someone “from the rig tongs to the remote choke” over a period of several years. The five stages could be:

  • 123s;
  • Introducing well control;
  • First-line well control;
  • Supervisor well control; and
  • Advanced well control.

In place of the ABCs you would have the 123s, where the underpinning calculation skills could be mastered.  Calculations are the basis of key principles of well control. Individuals need to be able to manipulate numbers easily and confidently in order to understand many well control aspects.

Teaching math to adults is very different from teaching math to kids, however. You need to ensure they stay motivated and invested. To do this, the math training must relate to their world or where they are aiming to be. Make it well control-specific without being well control training. Get critical or boring at this stage and that crew member will struggle forever.

With the core calculation skills in place, the next step would be to apply these skills to understand the basics of well control. This must be done in a safe environment where the individual can concentrate on learning, not where they will feel pressured to pass a test. Develop an understanding of hydrostatic pressure concepts. Introduce the concepts of circulating pressures and formation strength. Filling out a kill sheet can be used to improve understanding of volumes and strokes, as well as the basic kill calculations. It may even be relevant to cover the basics of well kill operations and well control equipment.

An IADC Introductory Level WellCAP School, or self-study package, would be the perfect environment.

The next stage is to train drillers. At this stage, we need to further develop their understanding of well control basics, then move on to look at why kicks happen, how to prevent kicks, how to recognize kicks and what to do in the event of a kick. Kill methods need to be discussed along with the equipment available to the driller. The equipment section should cover what equipment is needed to secure a well, how the driller operates the equipment, how to know it has worked properly or when it hasn’t worked properly, and what are the next steps to secure the well. This should be done in a classroom environment, with practical elements covered on a simulator. It should also be backed up with relevant on-the-job training (OJT) in the form of regular drills and exercises at the rig site. This is where an IADC WellCAP Fundamental Level or IWCF Driller Level Well Control School should come in. Well control schools can only cover so much, and drilling contractor competency programs need to ensure they incorporate the OJT element.

By the time an employee has reached toolpusher level, the crew member needs to be trained to take control of a kill operation. Once we have confirmed the basics are understood, we need to develop a deeper understanding of managing well control from a site supervisor perspective. How do we ensure drillers know what to do and how do we check this? How do we know our equipment is fit for purpose and how to we check this? What do we do when our driller has shut the well in on a kick? How do we kill a well? How do we know when it is going well and, perhaps more importantly, how do we know when things are not going well, and what do we do if they are not?

Once again, theory, simulators and OTJ all play a part. IADC WellCAP and IWCF Supervisor Well Control Schools have their place, but company-specific competency programs must also play their part.

Once someone has mastered all of these stages – and this will take place over a period of several years throughout their career – they will be ready to be challenged in the training environment by undergoing scenario-based advanced well control where their understanding, problem-solving and decision-making skills can be put to the test.

At this stage, candidates should be challenged on the specific drilling environments in which they work. WellCAP Plus or company-specific advanced well control training is relevant. By this stage, organizations need to be speaking individually with the certifying authorities and regulators to ensure training is not only relevant but also recognized.

Well control is so important to the safety of our operations and to the image of our industry that it should be treated as more than just “tick-in-the-box” training. International cricketers are trained over a period of time, following a logical progression that allows an individual to master one set of skills before moving on to the next.

We should respect our drill crews by affording them the same set of opportunities. Firstly, ensure the basic calculation skills are in place. Then look to teaching the basics of well control. Next, send your crews to driller-level well control school followed by supervisor-level well control school. When they demonstrate competence at this level, go on to challenge them with some relevant advanced well control training.

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