How to Survive a Rig Inspection: Part 6

Well Control Equipment

In this 16 part series, our head of Rig Inspection Services Steven Lee shares tips on how operators and owners can get through rig inspections with flying colours – and which pitfalls to avoid! Mr Lee has more than a hundred rig inspections under his belt, from all parts of the world. In this chapter, we will focus on well control equipment.

Well control equipment is always a hot topic during any rig inspection, and often the main focus of inspection teams and their clients. Oil companies, as the duty holders for the wells, need assurance that both the equipment condition and certification meet the required standards.

With well control equipment there are clear industry regulations globally accepted as API Standard 53, which came in the aftermath of the Macondo incident in 2010. There are also region-specific regulations, such as Norsok D-002 for drilling operations in Norway, Oil & Gas UK for United Kingdom drilling operations and the BSEE Well Control Rule for drilling operations in the United States. However, all these region-specific regulations use API Standard 53 as the basis upon which they are built.

At the time of writing, a long-awaited update to API Standard 53 is imminent and the BSEE Well Control Rule is also in the final stages of review.

The first area that a rig inspection team will focus upon is the documentation and certification for well control equipment. There are a number of requirements for well control documentation to be available onboard the rig, as well as the requirement for certain well control equipment to undergo periodic maintenance and original manufacturer verification.

It has been seen on many rig inspections that items of equipment thought to be certified are found to be uncertified, often due to the certification not matching the serialisation of the equipment found in service.
More often than not, rig inspection teams will witness function testing and pressure testing of well control equipment. One part of this exercise is to observe that the equipment used is calibrated correctly and that the company well control procedures are followed.

One area that often surprises rig inspection teams is that when discussing the API Standard 53 regulations, although most of the senior members of the rig crew are aware of the regulation and its importance few actually have seen it or have access to it onboard the rig.

Commonly identified non-conformances identified during inspection testing are:

  • The requirement for 6 monthly drawdown testing
  • The requirement for Annual Operator testing

If pressure testing is not conducted, then typically a review of previously conducted pressure tests will be carried out. It is quite surprising how poor these recorded documents can be – often unsigned and undated with no reference to the test equipment used and not even to the actual test configuration itself.

As we frequently explain to rig crew, these documented charts are your evidence that the equipment was in good working order. If the worst were to happen then they may need to use these as supporting evidence that the equipment they put into service was fit for purpose.

Well Control Equipment

Good inspection teams will clearly document the well control equipment condition externally and internally as far as is practical, which is ultimately a good thing for rig owner and crew alike, as well as the oil company.

As ever, the key to surviving a well control equipment inspection is preparation. Make sure your documentation is in order and available and that your crews understand specifically how API Standard 53 applies to them.

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