News Oct 31, 2018

Prepare for the “What-ifs” of Subsea Well Control

Chris LeCompte, General Manager-WellCONTAINED, explains the measures that operators are taking to manage effective incident response for subsea drilling projects in this Oilfield Technology article.

After the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the oil and gas industry realized that there was a pressing need to establish dedicated response safeguards for these types of events. The need for faster response times and better controls on post-event pollution was more clearly understood. As a result of this new awareness, the industry set to building dedicated subsea equipment packages to reduce response times for potential future events. These packages were developed to include subsea dispersant application equipment, debris cutting packages and subsea capping stacks.

In land-based scenarios, using a capping stack is common practice in response to a blowout. Equipment for land wells is smaller and more prevalent so that these stacks can be assembled from available equipment in an acceptable time period. Subsea capping stacks are much larger and require specialized subsea hardware that is not as readily available. New equipment lead times are one year or more, depending on the component. These lead times are unacceptable in a response scenario, which was a major factor in setting up the dedicated equipment inventories that are currently available.

WellCONTAINED was Wild Well’s solution to this problem. Two capping stacks were built and strategically situated, ready for deployment in the event of another large well control incident. One capping stack is located in the UK near Aberdeen, with the other based in Singapore. With the exception of the US, which is already covered by other equipment, these two capping stacks have a global reach. In addition to the equipment and deployment personnel, Wild Well also provides planning services, which help clients prepare for ‘what-if’ scenarios. The aim is to help clients answer questions such as, ‘In a well control event, how would we get the equipment where we need it?’ ‘How would we deploy it?’ ‘How does it work?’ and ‘What additional equipment will be needed?’ Outside of just maintaining well control equipment and making sure that it is in a constant state of readiness, a significant portion of time is devoted to writing plans, training, and drills to prepare clients to efficiently respond should they ever experience an incident.