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Call for greater awareness concerning well control incidents

Well control incidents and barrier management were on the agenda at the annual contractor seminar organised by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) and held last Tuesday. "We are regrettably not seeing a positive trend in the fall in well control incidents, which is worrying", said PSA Director General Anne Myhrvold in her introduction.

Against a backdrop of serious accidents like Macondo and Montara in 2010 and the findings of the well control study conducted as part of RNNP in 2011, Myhrvold noted that barrier management is a particular challenge for the industry.

"There is a need for greater emphasis and awareness concerning all well control incidents, during drilling, but also during well maintenance", said Myhrvold, who also called for more investigations following well incidents, with a view to learning.

She indicated that, as of 2012, well control incidents that occur during well maintenance also have to be reported.

"We have not received so far any incident reports relating to well intervention, which we do not believe reflects the reality", Myhrvold asserted.

Increase in number of well control incidents
In recent years there has been an increase in well control incidents. The attributable risk associated with these incidents is however stable compared with previous years, since most of them were well control incidents classed at the lowest risk classification.

Specialist forum for well control incidents
In November of last year, the PSA held a meeting of shipowners, drilling contractors and well service contractors to review the findings of a study conducted as part of the Risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activities (RNNP) report on the causes of well control incidents on the Norwegian shelf. At the meeting, participants called for a specialist forum where the companies could discuss common challenges associated with risk reduction and well control.

Subsequently, the PSA took this initiative forward to the Safety Forum, where the ambition was communicated to the Norwegian Shipowners' Association and the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association.

The Norwegian Oil and Gas Association has instigated a process to establish a specialist forum for the well control companies, while the NSA has decided to strengthen representation in an existing forum - the Well Incident Task Force. Information about this work is published at rederi.no. They also want to establish an internal network for those companies not participating in the Well Incident Task Force.

"It is one thing to get this type of forum established, but the key objective is for the major challenges to get discussed and for cooperation across the sector to produce concrete results", said Myhrvold.

"The PSA will be monitoring the results of this work going forward through the Safety Forum."

Barrier management and well control
During this year's contractor seminar, a full auditorium also heard company presentations relating to planning, modifying and performing well operations, expertise associated with drilling and intervention activities, and a company's experiences of auditing.

Based on the barrier function of "maintaining well control", the PSA reviewed examples of relevant technical, organisational and operational barrier elements, performance requirements and performance-influencing factors. A review was also given of the North Sea countries' experiences of the joint auditing of well control. This model is to be extended to other audits of well control.

The PSA's Director of Audits Finn Carlsen summed up the day:

"The contractors have an independent responsibility for preventing major accidents. We can see that there is more work to do to increase awareness of well control incidents, a need for more learning about barrier management and a need for better compliance with the regulatory requirements on barrier management", he said.