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Insight

The Evolution of Well Control Technologies

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 17:55

The Macondo Well blowout in April 2010 sent an unprecedented shockwave through the global oil and gas industry. Governments around the world began calling for oil companies of all sizes to have enhanced operational and safety plans in place for offshore and deepwater operations to prevent a major blowout, and to also have sufficient response capabilities – including equipment, personnel and training – readily available to respond to a worst-case spill scenario. Given this new global regulatory and political environment, and the challenges oil companies now face in meeting the regulatory mandates that are critical to gaining new drilling permits, Wild Well Control is playing a proactive role to make its approximately 40 years of well control and blowout response experience available to oil and gas companies seeking to meet the new regulatory requirements.

Safety and risk management are central to Wild Well Control’s approach to oil and gas exploration and production, and their business is based on providing the training, equipment, and personnel needed to not only be prepared, but to prevent worst-case scenarios. In response to new exploration challenges, as well as evolving technology and the significant growth in the number of wells being developed, Wild Well Control has expanded its team and offerings. For example, Wild Well Control recently developed the WellCONTAINED Subsea Containment Solution, an integrated, comprehensive solution to deepwater well control issues featuring a modular capping stack, and increased operator flexibility to meet situation-specific demands. The WellCONTAINED system provides operators a full range of solutions for the preparation, prevention, response, and recovery from a well-control event in up to 10,000 feet (3,048m) of water. In addition, Wild Well Control personnel also work with operating companies running emergency response drills and exercises, ensuring their state of readiness to respond to a well control emergency.

Wild Well Control has also significantly enhanced and expanded its Well Control Training program, providing training to approximately 11,000 students in 2012 alone. This practical, hands-on well control training program uses advanced simulator systems and a specialized curriculum designed to ensure that trainees can meet or exceed government safety, training, prevention and well-blowout response standards. Simulators use actual well data to mimic possible downhole conditions, recreating a wide variety of operational difficulties that test a trainee’s ability to resolve unique developments and avoid a blowout. The training program is accredited by the American Petroleum Institute and by International Association of Drilling Contractors to provide all levels of WellCAP certification.

Pemex and the Mexican government are proactively addressing potential blowout situations, and are focused on ensuring that personnel across all levels of exploration activities – from the executive suite to the field – are trained beforehand, know their roles, and are not using actual events as ‘on the job’ training. Finally, since no two well control incidents or blowouts are the same, maintaining awareness, training, and flexibility are critical to effective incident response. For Mexico, whether a well is in the Gulf, the Pacific or the Caribbean, a timely and orderly response from the top of an organization down to the team in the field is paramount to achieving a successful outcome.

PEMEX AND WILD WELL CONTROL

In 2010, 24 deepwater operators were hired to deal with the Macondo accident, and Wild Well Control was among the companies managing the consequences of the blowout. The Texas-based company - which has 17 offices in eight countries and responds to more than 80% of all blowouts worldwide - signed an agreement with Pemex in May 2012, aimed at improving security measures at the NOC’s deepwater projects.

It is estimated that the Deepwater Horizon spill cost British Petroleum (BP), the world’s fifth oil and gas company, US$41 billion. Even though a series of lawsuits against the platform owner and several operating companies helped cover part of the losses, this figure represents over 2.5 times the entire profit of BP during 2009. Considering that tax levying leaves Pemex a much feebler profit margin, the Mexican company would not have the resources to affront a similar disaster.

Signaling the importance of its flourishing business relationship with Pemex, Wild Well Control built its latest training facility in Ciudad del Carmen, which will start operating at the beginning of the second semester of 2013. Three simulators will be installed in order to train students, Pemex personnel, and employees from the NOC’s contractors and subcontractors. In addition, two courses regarding subsea drilling and subsea drilling workover will be offered.