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Chevron’s David Payne calls for elimination of diverters, rethinking of well control practices

ImageIt’s time to rethink many of the industry’s well control practices, urged Chevron’s David Payne at the recent IADC Well Control of the Americas Conference. Traditions must be set aside, he said, in order to make progress on issues such as diverter use, cementing, managed pressure drilling and personnel training.

Quoting American author John Steinbeck, Mr Payne reminded the audience that deeply accepted practices could take surgery to remove. “I submit that it may be time for surgery,” he said.

The following are four issues Mr Payne, Chevron vice president global drilling & completions, challenged the industry to rethink.

David Payne calls for elimination of diverters

1. DIVERTERS

A recent MMS study of OCS blowouts from 1992-2006 showed that diverters were used on 20 occasions. Sixteen of those 20 were considered successful because the desired venting of gas was sustained until the well bridged, allowing all personnel to be safely evacuated.
Sixteen of 20 translates to an 80% success rate, Mr Payne acknowledged, but it also translates to a 20% failure rate. “Considering the results when the use of a diverter fails, I do not consider 80% an acceptable success rate,” he pointed out. When a diverter is activated, control of the well is given up. This means it is not a well control device but an evacuation device.
Significant data exist showing that wells in shallow formations can be shut in — when those wells are designed appropriately.
“Let’s not debate whether we can make diverters better, but whether we can eliminate them completely,” he urged.

2. BOP STACK NIPPLE-DOWN

The MMS blowout study also showed that cementing was the top contributing factor for the 39 total factors identified between 1992-2006. Some incidents had multiple factors. Cementing was identified as a factor in 18 incidents.
Mr Payne encouraged the industry to challenge the practice of nippling-down a BOP stack on an open annulus after it’s been cemented. The MMS report illustrates the dangers of doing that — so “why do we continue to expose our people, rigs and environment to open annuluses?”

3. MANAGED PRESSURE DRILLING

Managed pressure drilling is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of techniques, and the challenges that we’re facing will require a wider use of MPD techniques in the future. Is the industry adequately training personnel to safely use MPD techniques? Are regulations in place in various parts of the world, including the Gulf of Mexico, to allow the industry to effectively use MPD techniques? “I believe there’s a gap there we must address,” Mr Payne said.

4. TRAINING

As young workers are recruited, trained and sent out into the field amid the beginnings of the great “crew change,” industry must ask itself, “Are we certifying or are we training?” Are young engineers — just three months out of school — qualified to manage a well control situation simply by taking and passing a well control class?
On the other hand, there are the experienced workers who may have been through well control training 25 times in their 25-year careers. Is he learning anything new each times he’s certified?

Mr Payne applauded the IADC WellCAP Plus program, which is designed to encourage participation among multiple levels of decision-makers. Participants use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop team solutions for progressively difficult well control exercises. “It’s an impressive piece of training,” he said. “Why aren’t we using it more? Why aren’t all of our experienced personnel being challenged with WellCAP Plus or a similar program, rather than putting them through training they’ve been through repeatedly?”

“Let’s get our people ready,” Mr Payne said. “Let’s accept Steinbeck’s challenge to perform a little surgery on some of our deeply held beliefs.”
Details on the MMS blowout study is available in the July/August 2007 issue of DRILLING CONTRACTOR.

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