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New well control drills emphasize stakeholder integration, proactive risk detection

By Kelli Ainsworth, Associate Editor

Well control drills are a critical component to ensuring that personnel onboard a drilling rig are prepared to respond in a timely manner if a well control event occurs. However, too often, operators, contractors and service companies manage well control risks and training in silos, said Terrance Sookdeo, Director of Process Safety and Contractor Management for Baker Hughes. “We function as if we are in mutually exclusive environments,” he said at the 2017 SPE/ICoTA Well Intervention and Coiled Tubing Conference in Houston on 21 March. “When you function at the well site, it’s truly a collaborative effort between drilling contractors, the service companies and operators.

Baker Hughes has been developing and piloting new well control and threat response drills that helps to integrate all stakeholders at the well site. Often, when a drilling contractor or operator runs a drill, the rig floor crew participates in the drill, while everyone else, including service company employees, stand on the sidelines. “Is that really safe? Have you really qualified the rig to respond?” Mr Sookdeo questioned. “If you only involve the crew on the rig floor, sometimes they’re not even the first one to see the emergence of a risk.”

The new drills also emphasize the identification of precursors to a well control event, not proper reactions. Too often, Mr Sookdeo said, well control drills are reactive and only measure employees’ ability to react to a risk. They often take the identification of the risk for granted. “Are you just assuming that somehow that risk, when it presents itself, will be automatically detected?” he asked. “We need drills where they are actually diagnosing and detecting risks.”

Baker Hughes’ new response drills begin under normal operating conditions. “The drill starts with a simple escalation, where it’s a routine aspect of the job, so you can test people on how they’re able to proactively detect a threat.” Complications like impaired personnel or missing equipment are introduced, as well. The crew is evaluated on whether they take the correct actions to manage the threat in a timely manner. They’re also evaluated on their decision-making and communications. The drill concludes with an after-action review that points out what went right, what went wrong and how the crew should react differently in the future.

The new drills were initially developed for Baker Hughes’ coiled-tubing service line, but the company has now created drills for its wireline, pressure pumping, completions and wellbore intervention service lines. The company began pilot testing the drills in summer 2016 and started formally operationalizing them in Q4 2016. Further, the drills can be run in conjunction with training provided by other service providers, operators or contractors, Mr Sookdeo noted.

The drills have already improved the operational readiness of employees and have helped drive human error out of the system, he added. “My proposal is that it will minimize NPT. You’re actually looking at the preventive side of the risk, as well as the reactive side.”

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