Description: Well blowouts are one type of event in hydrocarbon exploration and production that generates health, safety, environmental and financial risk. Well blowouts are variously defined as 'uncontrolled flow of well fluids and/or formation fluids from the wellbore' or 'uncontrolled flow of reservoir fluids into the wellbore'. Theoretically this is irrespective of flux rate and so would include low fluxes, often termed 'leakage'. In practice, such low-flux events are not considered well blowouts. Rather, the term well blowout applies to higher fluxes that rise to attention more acutely, typically in the order of seconds to days after the event commences. It is not unusual for insurance claims for well blowouts to exceed US$10 million. This does not imply that all blowouts are this costly, as it is likely claims are filed only for the most catastrophic events. Still, insuring against the risk of loss of well control is the costliest in the industry. The risk of well blowouts was recently quantified from an assembled database of 102 events occurring in California Oil and Gas District 4 during the period 1991 to 2005, inclusive. This article reviews those findings, updates them to a certain extent and compares them with other well blowout risk study results. It also provides an improved perspective on some of the findings. In short, this update finds that blowout rates have remained constant from 2005 to 2008 within the limits of resolution and that the decline in blowout rates from 1991 to 2005 was likely due to improved industry practice.
Date: October 1, 2009
Creator: Jordan, Preston D. & Benson, Sally M.
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