Risks and Equipment Considerations for Surface Diverting (Well Control)

Of all diverts, many studies show a failure rate of between 50% and 70%. According to the same studies, when it comes to well control issues, shallow gas blowouts is the leading cause of offshore rig damage and loss. On the US Outer Continental Shelf, the MMS agrees with these findings and has suggested a 46% failure rate between 1971 and 1991. Even though mandatory well control training was introduced during this period, the MMS has noted that a reduction in blowout frequency wasn’t experienced during this time.

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Introduction to Diverters in Well Control

Considering the danger of shallow steam or gas zones requires unique well control considerations. Whenever the necessary casing shoe integrity cannot be obtained due to the shallowness of the zones (before encountering pressure), a kick will need to be diverted because it cannot be shut-in. For this situation, a diverter shown in Figure 1 is a mandatory equipment to divert the undesirable flow to allow personal to have proceed the next plan; i.e., evacuation and/or dynamically kill a well.

Figure 1 - Diverter Package in Well Control (Courtesy of Cansco Dubai LLC)

Figure 1 – Diverter Package in Well Control (Courtesy of Cansco Dubai LLC)

By directing the flow from an unloading well, diverting allows physical damage to be limited to all equipment and rig personnel. With specialized procedures and equipment, the idea is to impose limited back pressure on the weak downhole formations. Although not strictly a well control procedure, diverting successfully will allow the well to be dynamically killed, to bridge over, or be depleted (without losing equipment or life). Continue reading