A Systems Approach to Well-Control-Barrier Management During Drilling Operations

Well-barrier verification is having the confidence and being able to prove that “the folks on the rig will do the right thing and the equipment will function as intended when called upon to do so.” This paper describes a method of achieving that aim by analyzing well-control-barrier systems in a logical and complete manner with regard to the technical, operational, and organizational elements so that the results can be used as the basis for a straightforward means of barrier verification during operations.

Bowtie diagrams, while a useful illustrative starting point, are limited in their ability to depict well-control barriers as systems consisting of individual elements that interact with one another. Portraying them as systems enables the processes, people, and equipment required for effective well control to be analyzed in a way that is both logical and complete. Further examination of the elements reveals the critical aspects that must be checked to verify barrier effectiveness. Operationalizing the verification process is done by extending and formalizing established practices of wellsite supervisor oversight and cross checking complemented with periodic inspections.

The analysis is resource intensive because each operational mode must be considered separately to ensure completeness.  Once this work is done, general themes within critical aspects emerge that enable the verification tasks to be grouped into a set of logical activities that include conversations with crewmembers to verify knowledge, criteria for drills to check on team capability, and periodic inspections to ensure equipment integrity. Although difficult to achieve, the process must be carried out in a way that engages the crews in a sense of self-preservation to avoid becoming a box-ticking exercise.

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