Well Blowout, and What We Should Consider

Well Blowout, and What We Should Consider


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HMN-We’ve seen them being built, and some may have them in their run areas, but have you thought about your first priorities for well blowouts?


Life Safety

As in emergency response, safety, is the number one priority in oil field operations.  Once a blowout has occurred we now have employees who have been exposed to raw oils and gases of varying gravities and vapor pressures. Thermal and chemical burns may have occurred, as well as more traumatic injuries. Once any applicable rescues have been made, it is then time to start working together, as these workers are your biggest source of information about the products involved and process information.

What Exactly is a Blowout?

A blowout is the escape of high pressure hydrocarbons from underground oil fields back up through the drilling pipe. Many different factors play in to why a blowout occurs, we just need to understand that when it does, we are at the mercy of nature and sometimes it can be unpredictable. Under most circumstances, the safety device known as the “Blowout Preventer” will isolate the spewing fluids, sealing it back in, however in rare circumstances the Blowout Preventers can fail, causing our emergency situation.

well blowout

Well Blowout Burning

What We Will Encounter at a Well Blowout

The range of products coming from the well can be quite large. From light methane, to heavy crude, we need to focus on toxic vapors such as H2S and other sulfur compounds, to the flammable products exiting the well. If a fire is present, our product may be essentially controlled, allowing us to focus on rescue and providing safety for the employees as they contact the oil well firefighting companies to assist. When no fire is present we need to be very mindful of ignition sources. Static electricity alone from the velocity of the blowout can be enough to ignite vapor. This is due to he fact that some wells can be under 5,000 psi or more.

In the Meantime

After proper agencies are contacted, one thing to realize is this could take a while. Mobilizing response teams with the proper heavy equipment can, and will take time. In a fire situation we should focus on exposures at this point. Granted, most of these well sites are fairly remote, there may be tanks, or transport trailers in need of cooling. A steady water source and monitors will go a long way in these situations.

At the end of the day, safety is number one. When the well firefighting companies arrive, we support them however they need, and provide whatever resources we can to eliminate the hazard from our area.

About The Author

Ryan Henry currently serves as the training officer for two volunteer fire departments in Calcasieu Parish Louisiana. Ryan also works in operations at a major gulf coast oil refinery, and serves as an ERT firefighter, as well as their Hazardous Material Response Team Training Coordinator. Ryan holds an AAS degree in Process Plant Technology and currently serves as a LSU/FETI Lead Evaluator for Louisiana.

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