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Do you have a plan in place for a well control disaster?

Posted on 27 August 2009

 Ask anyone who works in the oil industry about blowouts, and they’ll tell you they are costly, create a negative public image, spark litigation, are dangerous and harm the environment. But do you have a plan for dealing with disaster if and when it strikes? That’s the question Jace Larrison, senior well control engineer, Cudd Well Control, is asking. “When a blowout occurs, it inherently costs you more if you don’t have a plan worked out beforehand,” he told attendees at the 2009 IADC Well Control Conference of the Americas & Exhibition, held in Denver on 26-26 August. His presentation, “Well Control Event Mitigation – Planning for the Unpredictable,” addressed a variety of activities that companies should think about before the unthinkable happens.


Companies need to have plans in place ahead of time
for dealing with a blowout if and when it happens.

He suggests companies have both an emergency response plan (ERP) to define an event and organize the response to that event, and a blowout contingency plan (BCP) to specifically respond to the blowout. “In both cases, having a team structure in place is one of the most important things you can do,” Mr Larrison said.

Well control incidents can be defined by three levels, he continued. “A level-one incident involves a normal kick that can usually be handled by the people at the rig,” he said. “A level-two event is an out-of-the-ordinary event that usually involves bringing in a specialist. A level-three event involves actual loss of control, either underground or at the surface.”

Mr Larrison suggests companies devise an ERP to identify members of a well control team, establish a chain of command and set up an incident command system to organize response personnel, equipment, notify residents, contact regulatory agencies, handle internal contacts and dispatch a specialist.

“You need to know what you’re going to do when a blowout happens,” he said. “Do you kill with the rig or do you rig up a pump truck? Do you need fluids? Who are you going to contact? When do you dispatch a specialist?”

The BCP would be activated when a blowout occurs, and would immediately contact regulatory agencies, evacuate nearby residences, contact third-party assistance and secure the perimeter, he explained. The BCP also would establish a relief well team and deal with capping operations, bring in special equipment, conduct blowout calculations and determine kill techniques and equipment requirements.

“Company culture is a key factor in determining the structure of ERPs and BCPs,” Mr Larrison said. “Some plans are ten pages, others are 2,000 pages. We work for companies that have anywhere from two to 2,000 employees.”

He also suggests companies refresh their employees with the procedures outlined in the plans by doing drills as often as necessary. “You don’t do this every day, so you need to practice,” he said. “A blowout is not something you want to be experimenting with on the fly, while the event is going on.”

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