Dr M D Reifel

Marathon Oil Company

INTRODUCTION

Blowouts are of two types, surface blowouts and subsurface blowouts. Surface blowouts are possibly accompanied by fire, explosion, pollution, third party damage, and property damage to the drilling rig and platform. They also expose the company involved to potential unsatisfactory public opinion. If the blowout is uncontrolled, a valuable reservoir may be needlessly depleted. On the other hand, a subsurface blowout which leaves no impression on the surface can be equally devastating to a hydrocarbon reservoir. Although less spectacular, the subsurface blowout can be more difficult to control.

Controlled blowouts may be defined as the flow of hydrocarbons from the wellbore which is contained by the rig equipment. A catastrophic blowout is generally one that results from a failure of rig equipment/personnel, from natural causes such as a storm, or from failure of mooring equipment in the case of a floater. Catastrophic blowouts result in uncontrollable flow from the wellbore.

This section is concerned with catastrophic surface blowouts. Some technical aspects of well control equipment used to control blowouts are discussed in the section on blowout prevention.

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