From a HSE perspective few E&P operations present a more complex risk management challenge than a typical offshore, exploration drilling operation.

Managing the HSE interfaces between a large number of contractors, each of which brings its own portfolio of hazards and risk management barriers, is difficult at any time. Against the background of a confined working environmental typical of mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs) and the limited duration of many drilling operations, the challenge is further enhanced.

The ability of the MODU to be brought onto station and to maintain station throughout the drilling period presents its own series of challenges. Transit planning, towing, stability, jacking operations, structural strength, foundation, moorings and DP analyses; over the past decade failures in each of these areas have led to significant incidents in which people, the environment or assets have been impacted.

Below the rotary table certain aspects of HSE risk management are handed over to specialists who understand how to interpret the uncertainty in an organisation's understanding of the subsurface geology and the nature of the hydrocarbon bearing zones (should they exist). They will design the well and the operator will normally select the contractors, equipment and systems required to deliver it. All these elements will be expected to come together during the drilling operation in an effective, efficient and HSE compliant manner.

For certain drilling activities, additional hazards such as deepwater, harsh environments, HPHT wells and the potential for sour gas, further complicate the problem.

Identifying and managing in a consistent manner this complex portfolio of risk can be a major challenge for any organisation.

This paper considers what are viewed within Eni UK as some of the key HSE challenges associated with a typical offshore, exploration drilling operation and discusses how they may be addressed.

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