Technology Focus: Deepwater Projects (May 2011)
- Karen Olson (Southwestern Energy)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 66 - 66
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Lessons (Hopefully) Learned
The BP Macondo incident, late April 2010, profoundly changed the way work will be performed, on and offshore. After losing 11 men, injuring others, and losing an exploration rig, it is an appropriate time for the industry to evaluate what changes to industry standards are necessary to ensure that a similar event does not occur again.
The incident affected people’s lives in many ways, both seen and unseen. Obvious issues include lost tourism in several states, dead marsh and fish, idled rigs and workers, and areas placed off-limits to exploration. Nearly a year after the incident, the rig count in the Gulf of Mexico is down 50%. The unseen and to-be-determined issues include the uncertain regulatory field still arising from the event, previously marginal fields now shelved, and abandonment of or significant delay in developing high-pressure large-oil-in-place fields. Undoubtedly, these results will have a major effect on national energy security and will lead to higher energy costs.
What, then, are the lessons learned? First, management must not lose focus on the risks, however remote the odds. Second, when assessing staff adequacy, critical and honest evaluations of people and skill levels including technical expertise and requisite experience are required. In this context, technical or operational expertise should not be ignored, even if there is additional cost or time. Remaining lessons pertain to proper planning and vendor management. Proper equipment planning (availability and functionality) is required. Vendor management (must ensure that each project requiring new/sophisticated equipment has sufficient service-company-management buy-in and adequate resources and support) will be critical when offshore work returns. Striking the appropriate balance between cost and safety should err on the side of safety.
Now for the good news: two entities were established to respond to spills, and lessons learned by BP from Macondo can be used to avoid similar incidents.
Companies must be careful to avoid thinking that such an event “can’t happen to us.” Careful evaluation of risks, coupled with a realistic and thorough evaluation of company practices and processes, could help avoid another Macondo. Low-probability events can/do happen, sometimes with draconian consequences. Offshore development can be highly profitable, but the risk/return tradeoff should not be ignored.
Deepwater Projects additional reading available at OnePetro: www.onepetro.org
SPE 140498 • “Challenges of Designing Multistage Frac Packs in the Lower Tertiary Formation of the Cascade and Chinook Fields” by Ziad Haddad, SPE, FOI Technologies, et al.
SPE 137220 • “GOM Deepwater Field-Development Challenges at Green Canyon 468 Pony” by Michael H. Weatherl, Hess Corporation. (See JPT, April 2011, page 70.)
SPE 140228 • “Case History: Lessons Learned From Retrieval of Coiled Tubing Stuck by Massive Hydrate Plug When Well Testing in an Ultradeepwater Gas Well in Mexico” by Victor Vallejo Arrieta, Pemex, et al.
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