This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper IPTC 21430, “Deepwater Subsea BOP Technological and Reliability Advancement,” by Mahesh Picha, SPE, Malik Faisal Abdullah, and Ashutosh Rai, Petronas, et al. The paper has not been peer reviewed. Copyright 2021 International Petroleum Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.

Subsea blowout preventer (SBOP) reliability is a major challenge in deepwater drilling and completion operations, accounting for a large portion of major equipment failures and nonproductive time (NPT) costs annually. The complete paper focuses on SBOP technological advancement since the Macondo incident in 2010, with emphasis on reliability, equipment-condition monitoring, and statistical root-cause analysis. The development of new technologies has targeted overall cost optimization of the well life cycle but also has been aimed at assuring SBOP functionality.


Drilling contractors are required to establish minimum standards of redundancy and reliability of their SBOP systems and are required to implement an auditable risk-management process to ensure that their SBOP systems operate above minimum standards. A 2015 study found that 38% of NPT events were related to SBOP issues. Of this 38%, 56% were associated with maintenance, 22% with manufacturing issues, 16% with not following operational procedures, and 6% with training time. Because maintenance-related NPT was the major contributor, a detailed analysis was performed and found that frequency of the maintenance cycle, insufficient detailing of maintenance procedures, a lack of specific tools, insufficient spare parts onboard, and unavailability of technical documentation were responsible.

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