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The deep sea drilling is the process of gas and oil exploration. There are approximately 3400 deepwater wells with depths more than 150 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. It is an expensive technology, but with rising oil prices, more multinational companies become interested in investing in this sector. Some of the major companies working in this sector are Diamond Offshore, Halliburton, TransOcean, Schlumberger, and Geoservices. However, deep sea drilling is a complex process with the risk of explosion. Deepwater Horizon explosion is one of the most remarkable explosions of the drilling rig in 2010. The explosion killed eleven workers and created the largest environmental disaster in the American history (Melina, 2010).
Main Causes of Accidents
Deep sea drilling process needs complex equipments that can drill in an extreme depth. In drilling process, oil companies continue to push oil pipes and valves in deeper water and penetrate further underground. These technologies are not entirely invincible and extremely complicated, which may cause accidents by a simple mistake.
Harsh offshore environment can cause deep sea drilling accidents. Such environments create engineering challenges in oil rigs. Severe weather conditions such as storms and ice pose risks to the regular functionality of the rigs. Moreover, the distance of a rig from land makes it harder for additional rescue teams to reach the areas in extreme situations. Also, the inexperience of oil companies may cause accidents in oil rigs. Some experts believe that many oil companies do not have the experience of stopping oil leak at a great depth, because they never had to plug the well at such a great depth. Therefore, they are unprepared for the extreme conditions such as the ice formation inside the original containment dome due to the underwater freezing temperature (Melina, 2010).
In addition, deep sea drilling accidents may be caused by the failure of different safety systems. For example, oil companies seal the bottom of oil pipes by using different ways, for example, filling with cement and using mechanical valves. Mechanical valves are used to stop the flow of oil and gas. Thus, if the valves fail to stop the flow, then oil and gas may travel up the pipe towards the oil rig surface and cause a huge explosion. Another risk factor is the dodgy cement seal at the bottom of the borehole. If the cement cannot create a seal at the bottom of the borehole, then oil and gas begin to leak and can cause serious accidents. In some situations, the crew cannot spot the leak in a short time, and they cannot judge if a well is under control or not. Therefore, it may lead to dangerous situations. Also, pressure test mismanagement in oil rig may cause explosions. If the crew miscalculates the gas and oil pressure, it may cause huge pressure in valves and damages in equipments (Conway, 2013).
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Moreover, errors of oil and gas detection alarms and blowout preventer may also cause accidents in oil rigs. For example, if the rig’s onboard alarm system fails, it cannot close the ventilation fans. As a result, gas may reach inflammable zones of the rig such as rig’s engine.
On the other hand, if the blowout preventer fails to work as a result of an explosion or mechanical error, then it cannot close the safety valves automatically in extreme conditions. Nevertheless, if the mud-gas separator overwhelms quickly, it fails to separate gas from the flow of mud. As a result, flammable gas may reach the rig and cause serious accidents (Conway, 2013).
Deep sea drilling is a complex and expensive process. Therefore, drilling constructors must check the drilling wheels properly before they start to perform their work. They must ensure if the location is ready for the move in. Sometimes, rig construction operators perform their activities in a rush as they must finish their work in certain hour and day, which may lead to a minor or major error. Thus, oil industries should provide extensive time to the operators, because nipple up, rig up, spud and drilling are complex actions that need more time (Goolsby, 1981).
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In deeper drilling process, constructors may deal with several complicated problems such as abnormal pressure, heavier pipe strings, poison pipe strings, blowout fire, fishing job, and lost circulation. Therefore, oil industry seniors should provide closer supervision of the operation to avoid errors. They must train people properly before they hire them to work in rigs. These activities need highly experienced employees as it is a costly process and needs better management (Goolsby, 1981).
Deep sea drilling equipment manufacturing companies should control the equipment handling process during construction. 30% of injuries are the results of complex material handling. Manufacturers must show the weight of the piece of equipment along with its center of gravity mark, which can help the constructors to avoid different accidents. Manufacturers must provide information labels about the equipment in large letters, so that crane operators can see it from their work position (Goolsby, 1981).
Moreover, rig workers and engineers should maintain rig safety precautions. They must check safety valves and perform pressure tests from time to time. If they spot any leak in a well, they must take instant actions to avoid accidents. Also, gas alarms and blowout preventers should be checked regularly to avoid mechanical errors. Thus, it is possible to prevent accidents in deep sea drilling process (Goolsby, 1981).