In 2009-2010 there was an increase in the number of well control incidents on the Norwegian Continental Shelf reported to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA). This, together with the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, made PSA initiate a comprehensive investigation into the causes and possible mitigating measures related to well control incidents. The main purpose of the study was to describe the key challenges the petroleum industry has to face in order to reduce the number of well control incidents in the future.

The bottomic was addressed through a review of public documentation (e.g. investigating reports) on well control incidents in the period 2003-2010, interviews with drilling and well professionals in the industry, and a review of additional documents and material received from oil companies and drilling contractors operating in Norway.

The following main issues were deemed particularly important:

  • What are the key human, technical and organisational causes of well control incidents?

  • What are the most important measures proposed/implemented to reduce the number of well control incidents?

  • Is there correspondence between identified causes and proposed/implemented measures?

  • How can the petroleum industry improve their efforts to reduce the number of incidents further?

Four main areas were identified as crucial in the industry’s efforts to further reduce the risk of well control incidents. There is a need for 1) A stronger emphasis on technical measures that will improve safety. An example is improved and more extensive use of real time data for early detection of well control incidents. 2) A stronger focus on barrier management and more operational risk analysis tools. 3) A stronger focus on major accident risk, and formal investigations of a higher proportion of well control incidents. 4) Creating framework conditions for improved collaboration between the operating company, contractors and subcontractors.

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