Our team of blowout contingency experts recently attended and presented at the 2020 IADC Well Control Conference. In this blog, Martin Myrvang, Senior Engineer in Add Energy, and co-presenter at the event, shares key themes and takeaways from the event and solutions to the challenges discussed.
Common Pain Points
This year’s conference was undoubtably different, with the continued restrictions on travel and the requirement for social distancing due to COVID-19, the event was held virtually. Despite this, it was great to see so many experts come together to discuss solutions to challenges on a digital platform.
The current challenges facing the oil and gas industry right now mainly revolve around reduced demand in oil and gas resources due to the current pandemic, subsequent cost reduction initiatives and strive to go green. In particular, many of the event attendees expressed challenges associated with:
- Identifying and developing suitable and affordable technology to drill cost effective and productive wells, without compromising safety or increasing the risk profile
- Obtaining budget for investment into systems and automation, and dividing expenditure between operating oil companies and equipment owners
- An increase in well control incidents in recent years and a growing concern of how ongoing cost cutting may impact well integrity and control barriers - unfortunately, the well control team at Add Energy are witnessing this first hand right now, and are currently working on several well control incidents as I write this blog today
Low commodity price certainly calls for more efficient operations and investment in technology, however, I believe we are far from fully automated operations at this point. If we are not cautious when it comes to cutting costs and automating drilling and well control processes, we may end up with a higher risk profile associated with our operations, instead of making the industry safer. At the end of the day human oversight is necessary and in the case of a well control incident, decisions need to be made in an instant and we cannot rely on automation or technology – we need experienced subject matter experts, who know what to do efficiently and effectively.
In my experience, there is value to be unlocked and costs to be saved by being well prepared, especially when preparing for the “unthinkable”- a catastrophic well control incident. Common factors impacting companies preparedness are:
- Lay-offs of experienced personnel at operating companies and contractors reduce organizational memory
- Human factors: Data overload and overall workload
- Equipment readiness
- Well design
The drilling industry is experiencing very challenging times, and although it is predicted that we will see a decline in exploration drilling, the prospect of assuring safety and preparedness, whilst increasing production from developed projects through increased brown field activities, such as infill drilling is substantial.
To achieve higher production rates from future wells whilst assuring that the safety of drilling operations are a continued priority, and ensuring that any situation can be controlled efficiently and effectively if a hydrocarbon release were to occur, companies must invest time into analysing and modelling the well data and design to determine opportunities for change, that will enable higher volumes to flow. Add Energy’s well control blowout contingency team, in collaboration with Trendsetter Engineering, developed the RWIS, a relief well injection spool which has been designed to enable companies to maximize flow whilst assuring single relief well contingency as an effective and proven well control measure for high-volume wells.
In the current climate it can be difficult to obtain budget for solutions such as this, especially when the return on investment will not be realized instantly. It is therefore critical to communicate the issues that may be created by not considering opportunities to improve and focusing on projected return on investment in terms of monetary value when discussing solutions with management, in order to get initiatives sanctioned.
To conclude, a continued focus on how to work smarter with less whilst focusing on safety, cost effective and productive wells, and well control initiatives are crucial for the times ahead. I firmly believe that openness, information and knowledge sharing between companies, governments and the public when it comes to safe and cost effective operations is an area where the industry has potential for improvement. To help achieve this, I would recommend considering:
- Combined well design and blowout & kill simulations to identify opportunities to maximize flow, whilst assuring integrity
- Proper blowout contingency plans, including relief well design
- Regularly testing and verifying equipment
- Continuous mapping of the level of competency with regards to well control throughout the organization, including sub-contractors
- Periodically training personnel and including the relevant part of the organizations in well control drills
- Involve specialists with hands on blowout containment experience within third party well control companies to audit well designs and organize training and drills