Monday, June 21, 2010

If Nobody Hears a Blowout, Did it Really Happen?

Canada’s worst-ever blowout wasn’t a celebrity, and despite the passage of more than a decade the regulator has never formally investigated the event. Is that a good thing?

This article appears in the July issue of Oilweek
By Peter McKenzie-Brown

Klua d-27-J blew out near Fort Nelson BC. No neighbours were under threat, and the blowout took place in the sticks as most Canadians were getting ready for Christmas. No one was injured and, except for an incinerated rig, there was no damage to property. The media didn’t get wind of the disaster, so Klua was relegated to the world of “incidents.”

The blowout began on December 6, 1999 and took 12 days to shut in. But what an incident it was! Chairman Mike Miller of Safety Boss was part of a team of petroleum industry experts who prepared an important paper on Klua for a conference in Texas two years later. “Eyewitnesses reported that the drill string was lowered the last fraction of a meter with no resistance,” the paper says, “as if the bit had entered an underground cavern….” Then all hell broke loose.

According to Miller, at its peak the well spewed an estimated 250 million cubic feet of natural gas per day plus 5,000 barrels of condensate and 45,000 barrels of salt water. After ten days, crews ignited the well, which was flowing mildly sour gas. After pulling the incinerated substructure of the rig from the well, the hole was shut in and a control BOP installed.

When Oilweek recently contacted BC’s Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) for the formal report on this blowout, there was none. The Ministry of Environment would lead clean-up efforts, but otherwise the file is still open.
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