Posts Tagged ‘well control’

Raphael is a highly regarded offshore safety leader and a positive force for continuous safety achievement in Brazil and internationally.

Read Full Post »

Phil Rae piece in Fuel Fix

  1. The well clearly had losses through the shoe during the initial displacement of the heavy spacer with seawater, immediately prior to the negative test.
  2. Allowing for, and accepting, losses of ~80 bbls during spacer displacement, explains ALL pressure and flow anomalies without the need to create or invoke undocumented and unsubstantiated valve closures or manipulations that contradict witness testimony of events. It also eliminates the need to adopt unrealistically-low pump efficiencies for the rig pumps, hypothetical washed-out tubing and ridiculously high viscosities for the drilling mud, in an effort to fit questionable computer models.
  3. Despite extensive examination by investigators and the publication of several reports, the fact that the well experienced losses, making it even more severely underbalanced than was planned, has been given little credence or has received little or no attention, despite several clear indications that this was the case. While this statement regarding losses may be self-evident, its significance on the outcome at Macondo merits closer examination since it explains many previous, apparently-contradictory aspects of the disaster.
  4. Under-displacement of heavyweight spacer, as a result of losses during displacement, caused U-tubing and partial evacuation of the kill line, the lower end of which was later refilled with heavyweight spacer, driven by pressure and flow from the formation. The vacuum, initially, and subsequent invasion of heavy fluid rendered the kill line useless for monitoring the well since the line was effectively blind to pressure changes in the well.
  5. While initial flow into the well was through the shoe, pressure above the casing hanger seal during the negative test was reduced to levels that could have allowed the casing to lift, compromising the seal and possibly also allowing flow from the external annulus.
  6. The well encountered further losses during the second displacement (to displace the riser), after completion of the negative test. These losses, which were perhaps as much as 200 bbls, effectively replaced heavy mud with sea water in the casing below the drill pipe. This further underbalanced the well to the point that it was being kept under control only by pumping friction pressure. As the pump rate was reduced prior to shut down for the sheen test, effectively reducing system backpressure, the now severely underbalanced well began to flow.

Read Full Post »

Our friend Tore Fjågesund from WellBarrier sent us this clever poster.

Read Full Post »

From the West Australian:

A new system to regulate the offshore gas and oil industry – a direct response to the 2009 Montara north of the Kimberley – has been approved by the Federal Parliament’s lower house.

Under the changes, the seven state and territory authorities will be replaced by a single Commonwealth body, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

It will regulate all safety issues from exploration to well decommissioning.

In the US, the jurisdictional conflicts (offshore) differ in that they typically involve multiple Federal regulators with overlapping jurisdiction and different priorities. Since most of the necessary streamlining would only involve Federal agencies, one would think that regulatory reform would be achievable, especially after a major blowout that killed eleven. Unfortunately, meaningful US reform appears to be highly unlikely.

Read Full Post »

I don’t buy the argument that industry and regulators have paid too much attention to personal safety at the expense of process safety. Casualties from falls, falling objects, helicopter crashes, and other workplace activities have been persistent, and safety management programs must emphasize practices and procedures that will reduce occurrence rates.

Also, process safety has hardly been ignored. API RP 14 C has proven to be an effective safety analysis procedure for addressing undesirable events associated with each process component of a production facility.  For more complex facilities, Deepwater Operating Plans and API RP 14J, “Recommended Practice for Design and Hazard Analysis for Offshore Production Facilities, ” are good risk management supplements to RP 14C.

That said, we need better programs for sustaining the focus needed to further reduce the probability of low frequency, high consequence events.  When memories about the most recent disaster start to fade, what do we do to keep workers on edge and prevent complacency? What more can be done to prevent events with enormous consequence potential?  Some thoughts:

  1. Establish programs to remind employees about past disasters – how they happened and how they could have been prevented. How many offshore workers know the chain of events that led to the Santa Barbara blowout, Ocean Ranger sinking, Alexander Kielland capsizing, Piper Alpha fire and explosion, Ixtoc blowout, and other historic incidents? When discussing international incidents, we need to explain how our facilities or region might have been vulnerable under similar circumstances.
  2. Present information on minor incidents that could have escalated into disasters, emphasizing what could have gone wrong and why.
  3. Don’t just focus on the last disaster.  While addressing the operational and organizational issues that surfaced at Montara and Macondo, we also must assess incident data and identify activities and practices that could lead to the next disaster.
  4. Operators should not rely on the regulator to manage their operations. Reading about Montara and Macondo, one senses that the regulators were called on to referee internal company disputes and protect the operators and contractors from themselves.
  5. Regulators should not be making day-to-day operating decisions. Regulators should make sure that the regulations are clear and that operators have effective management procedures for adjusting programs as new information is obtained. Regimes that provide for regulator approval of each activity or adjustment promote operator complacency and are not in the best interest of safety over the long term.
  6. Service companies and contractors must challenge operators and regulators.  Operators should expect contractors to think and question, not to simply execute orders. There are impressive examples of contractors insisting on safety improvements, and being willing to forego business rather than compromise on safety.
  7. All sectors of the offshore industry should participate in standards development. Effective standards are dependent on diverse input.
  8. Industry and government leaders should promote innovation. Obvious weaknesses should be identified and industry should be challenged to propose solutions. For example, why do concerns about “false alarms” preclude automatic alarm activation (see Transocean’s Macondo report)? Data from redundant sensors can be analyzed by predictive software that is capable of quickly identifying real events. Similarly, why have advances in BOPE, including monitoring systems, been so slow? Why are BOP capabilities still poorly understood? Why are well integrity and casing pressure issues (producing wells) so common?

Read Full Post »


Animation of Transocean’s BOP analysis

Transocean’s BOP Defense:

Forensic evidence from independent post-incident testing by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and evaluation by the Transocean investigation team confirm that the Deepwater Horizon BOP was properly maintained and did operate as designed. However, it was overcome by conditions created by the extreme dynamic flow, the force of which pushed the drill pipe upward, washed or eroded the drill pipe and other rubber and metal elements, and forced the drill pipe to bow within the BOP. This prevented the BOP from completely shearing the drill pipe and sealing the well.

In other words, Transocean contends that properly maintained BOPE was not up to the task of shutting-in and securing a high-rate well. If true, this finding has significant implications for the offshore industry.  I’m looking forward to reading the government’s findings on the BOP failure when the Joint Investigation Team report is issued next month.


Read Full Post »

BP settled Macondo litigation with Weatherford, manufacturer of the float equipment equipment used in the Macondo well. The failure of this equipment was a key contributing factor in the Macondo blowout. Under the agreement, Weatherford will pay BP $75 million.  This money will be applied to the $20 billion Macondo trust fund.

Weatherford is the first of BP’s contractors to formally agree with BP that the entire industry can and should learn from the Deepwater Horizon incident. Accordingly, Weatherford has committed to working with BP to take actions to improve processes and procedures, managerial systems, and safety and best practices in offshore drilling operations. BP and Weatherford will encourage other companies in the drilling industry to join them in this improvement and reform effort.


  1. $75 million seems like a rather modest payment by Weatherford given the magnitude of Macondo damage costs. BP will “indemnify Weatherford for compensatory claims resulting from the accident.”  Presumably, Weatherford’s sales agreements provide good legal protection.
  2. One of the root causes of the Montara blowout was also a float collar failure. That float collar was also supplied by Weatherford.  I’m surprised that this common cause and supplier have received almost no attention. Of course, no one has paid much attention to Montara, either before or after Macondo. Had more attention been paid to the Montara inquiry, Macondo might have been avoided.  (Note that most of the post-Macondo commentary still implies that deep water is the threat even though Montara was in 80 m of water and the root causes of Macondo were not water depth related).
  3. When do we learn more about the “improvement and reform effort” described in the quote above?

Read Full Post »

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson is determined to establish a single national regulator after the Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea leaked oil and gas condensate for more than two months in 2009.

The WA government is at odds with Mr Ferguson over plans for a national regulator and wants to maintain responsibility for oversight of the industry in the state.

Senator Eggleston and Senator David Bushby said the federal government had introduced the legislation to parliament before concluding ongoing negotiations with the WA government. Herald Sun

Meanwhile, still no news regarding any penalties for Montara operator PTTEP.  Will there be none?

Read Full Post »

From the standpoint of post-Macondo safety and regulatory issues, this concise summary is the most comprehensive and useful report that I have read since the blowout.

I have pasted (below) comments about information management – one of the many important topics considered in the report – and hope you take time to read the entire summary. It is only 12 pages.

Conducting a critical review of the information used to manage major accident risk is one of the measures relevant for the companies. This work could include an assessment of
 the relevance, reliability and modernity of the indicators used to follow up risk trends
 inappropriate use of indicators, incentives and reward systems
 the need for better indicators and other information about the business which can be used to secure an early warning about a weakening in safety-critical barrier elements.
The PSA is of the opinion that the quality of information applied in managing major accident risk is also a question of what overview the players have of their own business, and thereby a question of the players’ own control. The PSA assumes that managing major accident risk cannot be outsourced. In light of the DwH accident, it could be relevant for the companies to review the processes intended to provide the necessary information about the business, assess in part how these processes support a culture of accountability and how various management and audit functions, third-party verifications and so forth contribute in this connection.


Read Full Post »

“It would seem to me, reading between the lines, that the cockpit crew weren’t confident of the information that was being presented to them on the data displays. Maybe — and it’s only a maybe — they took some action that led to the stall warning, and the plane stalling and then being unable to correct it.”

The above quote from a new article on the Air France crash should sound familiar to BOE readers. At both Montara and Macondo, the evidence of hydrocarbon influxes was clear, but personnel misinterpreted or ignored that information. Was this wishful thinking on their part? Was their training flawed? Lack of sleep? Overstressed? Distracted? These issues need to be carefully studied.

Improving well control preparedness is not simply a matter of modifying stack design.  The thought processes and human response tendencies that contribute to well control incidents and other accidents must be fully considered. Monitoring systems must provide timely, accurate, and understandable information, and training programs must teach workers not to rationalize negative signals, but to respond with caution pending further assessment. Trainers must remind students about past disasters and how they could have been prevented.

Nearly 20 years after it was written, Paul Sonnemann’s excellent paper on the Psychology of Well Control (excerpt below) is even more relevant today. We need to build upon and apply the lessons.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »