The Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 was a salutary reminder to the worldwide offshore industry of the need for exemplary standards of well control. Although that disaster happened thousands of miles away from Europe, the lessons from it are just as applicable for operators and drilling contractors in the North Sea. NSOAF was therefore anxious that any findings from that disaster in the Gulf of Mexico be incorporated into the practices of those working under their jurisdictions. Although it is clear that considerable effort has been paid by the industry to address the operability of blowout preventers and the need for capping stacks for subsea wells, human and organisational factors have been identified as being equally influential in well control.
As a result, NSOAF carried out a multi-national audit to look at how offshore operators and drilling contractors in the North Sea were incorporating the wide range of necessary human and organisational factors into their well control systems. Eleven separate audits were undertaken in Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and the UK during 2012/2013.
The audit report provides a snapshot of well control standards across the North Sea, with clear identification of good and poor practices. NSOAF therefore commends this report to the North Sea offshore industry, and asks that operators, their drilling contractors and their trade organisations take time to consider the various findings and to seek ways to implement the various good practices wider. NSOAF national regulators will be seeking opportunities to discuss the findings with their own national industry forums to ensure that the lessons learned about these crucial aspects of well control can be taken forward.