Complete Control

May 2011

Cansco CEO Mike Simpson provides an insight into the importance of well control.

With last year’s Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico still fresh in the mind, the idea of well control and safety – and the related concept of blowout prevention – has never been more topical.  Servicing the international oil and gas industry for over two decades, Cansco has shaped and grown its product and service offerings to meet customers’ need for safe, reliable and trusted well performance.  And nowhere does the priority of well performance matter more than in the safety critical area of well control.

As Cansco, well control integrity is paramount.  With one of the largest fleets of top brand blowout preventer equipment in the industry, the Dubai-headquartered company is committed to delivering a range of quality-assured rental and service solutions to its clients across the Middle East.  This, combined with a commitment to maintaining the highest standards of BOPE service maintenance and certification, means that Cansco Well Control is rapidly evolving into the region’s leading well performance specialist.

“Our mission is more than just a statement; everything Cansco sets out to achieve begins with the core values of integrity, trust, customer service, diversity, partnership, quality performance, responsibility and growth," says CEO Mike Simpson.  “With a continuous focus on health, safety and the environment around use, we take care to tailor our solutions to the individual needs of our clients – whether a fully integrated service package, the handling of a local service call or the ad hoc delivery of a single spare part.”

In your opinion, what are the key challenges operators currently face in terms of well control? And what solutions exist to tackle such challenges?

Mike Simpson. In my opinion there is one dominant challenge facing the industry when it comes to well control, and that is to overcome the prevailing complacent attitude towards the well activity hazard with the greatest potential severity – an uncontrolled release (or blowout).  The infrequency of well control events with severe outcomes – combined with misplaced confidence in policy, procedure and practices that form part of well-site ‘safe’ systems of work – are just some of the reasons why the safety-critical priority of well control can get lost in the medley of day-to-day well set priorities.

In this case, it’s not about a lack of solutions, rather it’s about the way solutions have been applied; practice is not always what is preached, and performance standards suffer accordingly.  As an industry we should not accept any degradation of well control priorities, for whatever reason, and allow risks to personnel to escalate beyond acceptable levels.  Assurance of well control equipment and system integrity must always be established and maintained by strict verification and testing schedules and oversight.  Contracts should specifically recognize well control priorities and ensure adequate time and financial resources are committed to provide the required levels of technical and operational well control assurance.

Can you provide a real-world example of how your equipment has been used in the field?  What were the challenges, and how did your solution help address these requirements?

MS. Blowout preventers and their control systems are critically important control measures for managing well activity risks.  Customers seek assurance that the well control equipment in use has been manufactured to recognised industry standards, has been installed and commissioned in line with those recognised industry standards, has been operated and maintained in line with industry safety standards and can be supported effectively with reliable availability of replacement equipment and parts, competent technicians and licensed repair facilities so that risks to well-site personnel are controlled to acceptable levels.  To achieve acceptable levels of assurance, our customers have replaced part and sometimes their entire existing well control package with Cansco equipment.

Testing and verification of any solution – preferably under controlled conditions, prior to installation – is essential.  How does your company address this critical need?

MS. We advocate overall system performance testing and verification of rig-specific well control packages and recently we have seen an increase in the number of our customers seeking enhanced levels of pre-installation testing and verification work on equipment.  Recent verification and testing work has included complete BOP stack assembly and outfitting, with full function and pressure testing; shear and seal performance tests for various industry standard and non-standard test samples; pressurised shear and seal performance tests (conducted with well bore pressure); BOP system performance tests; and dual bore ram testing.  Cansco’s unique facilities allow for safe an efficient verification testing – however, a number of field verification tests have successfully been conducted on Cansco and customer equipment packages.

This year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster highlighted why effective blowout prevention solutions are essential for the safe operation of a well.   What lessons can be learnt from the disaster with regards to blowout prevention to ensure the risk of such incidents occurring again can be reduced?

MS.  It is clear that the overall system of work employed at Macondo had a number of significant failings, in particular in the way it was being applied, creating inaccurate perceptions of ongoing risk leading to flawed decision-making.

One lesson is very clear: systems of work are fallible unless they are treated as a continuous safety critical process, constantly verified for effectiveness for the activity in which they are being employed.  For well control it means no compromise in either equipment and procedural integrity, or the level of continuous proactive effort to minimise the risk of well control events.

Any factor that can affect well control priorities must be carefully managed – for example, the commercial pressures of ensuring equipment is being maintained at a safety critical level, and that adequate training and drills are being conducted, must be addressed to ensure compromises are not being made that may increase well site risk to unacceptable levels.

To what extent is well control purely a technical/equipment challenge?  Can further operator training and improved production processes help with better well control?

MS. For all the good reasons mentioned above, better well control is more about improving people than the technical and/or equipment challenge.  It is the human side of well control that requires the most effort and more well control training and development in the industry is essential.  More specifically, it is training on the proactive side of well control that is required.  Awareness and understanding of the risks, establishing effective risk control measures, and developing competence to proactively interpret and intervene to minimise the severity of all well control events before they happen should be the focus.

O & G Next Generation Magazine – Q1 2011