Home Page

Introduction | Services, Equipment, Materials | Prequalification | Shipping & Transportation | Support Base | Communication | Financial Issues | Next Article |

Part 2-Logistics: Special services are often unfamiliar to operators and may not be available locally. Critical support and transportation are best managed by pre-planning to identify service, material and equipment needs. Vendors can be pre-qualified and contracts are signed in advance

John W. Wright, Blowout Advisor, John Wright Company,
James A. Tuppen and L. Flak, Blowout Specialists, Boots & Coots, L.P.

Except for organizing blowout intervention teams, the most complicated and typically overlooked components of implementing emergency projects are services and equipment logistics. Many required services are specialized and may not be available in the region. Knowledge of these services and companies that provide them may be unknown to typical company engineers with minimal experience in blowout control.

Figure above. Derrick barge in use during well capping operations. Large multi-service vessels (MSVs), generally available only in the North Sea, support surface blowout control operations on offshore structures with cranes, fire pumps, monitors and living quarters. MSVs, large cranes or stimulation vessels simplify surface blowout control intervention. 



An expensive and time consuming learning curve, often with disastrous results, has been evidenced in projects that used standard services beyond their capabilities, overlooked details that became insurmountable obstacles, included incompatible services, and neglected to identify applicable specialized and non-specialized vendors. There are, however, methods to reduce problems associated with logistics and support for any project.

During preparations for fighting Iraq in the Gulf War, General H. Nor man Schwarzkopf understood that without superior logistics and sup port, coalition forces could not be properly fielded, which would pro long the war and result in greater casualties. "The fellow . . . responsible for making sure soldiers had food, clothing, shelter, transportation and bullets-was Major General Pagonis . . . an Einstein at making things happen (2)." After the Gulf War, Kuwait oil well fires presented a logistical and sup port challenge on the scale of the problem faced by General Pagonis. In 1990, General Pagonis was promoted to four stars and later, in 1991, he replaced General Schwarzkopf. Pre-planning for the Kuwait fires included sourcing services, equipment and materials, pre-contracting, communication and transportation. Later over 520,000 t of supplies were moved to Kuwait to fight fires. 



Oil company civil, materials, transportation and logistics departments need to review detailed blow out contingency plans to determine how each section will address defined support requirements (Part 1). Operators need dedicated support personnel working in transportation, material acquisition, logistics, contracting, accounting and communications if a major blowout occurs. 

Table 1. Underground blowout control requirements
  • cementing pump and cementing lines 
  • cementing batch mixer or additional mud mixing tank 
  • cased hole wireline unit 
  • pressure/temperature log, perforators, drill collar severing tool, rate gyro, TDT 
  • possible additional stimulation pumps (higher rates and/or pressures required) 
  • centrifugal pumps (mud transfer and circulation) 
  • suction hoses and mud transfer lines (additional mud tanks and water pit) 
  • sack cement and pure bentonite for bentonite - cement - diesel oil - plug 
  • medium & coarse LCM materials (KwickSeal, mica, nut plug, ground CaCO3) 
  • additional mud products for quick mix mud (gel, caustic, barite, dispersent) 
  • additional water supply ( possible additional water wells and water storage pit) 
  • new seismic to map gas flood front (sustained high rate gas flow) 
  • re-survey surface location from fixed reference point (possible relief well) 
  • rate gyro run on drill pipe for better relief well target 
  • initiate relief well planning (severe gas flow, potential loss of surface access) 
  • additional mud storage tanks 
  • possible snubbing unit and tools 
  • inflatable packer (unable to dynamically kill, hole in casing) 
  • handheld radios for site communication 
  • blowout advisor 

Support and services. An important blowout team member is the drilling contractor. They have local experience and know how to acquire key services, equipment and materials that are available locally. Rig crews are needed to assist blowout specialists.

Operators should hold a pre-planning meeting with the rig contractor to discuss the following:

Equipment and material. The key to successful blowout control is fast and efficient mobilization of required support. Civil equipment (dozers, cranes and front end loaders) and trucking should be obtained locally. Air freight for this equipment is avail able, but costly. Winch-equipped dozers will be needed, but may be hard to find in some areas. Winches can be air freighted in with firefighting equipment. Offshore blow-outs require additional marine equipment (supply, off shore crane and stimulation vessels; anchor and diver support boats; and ROVs). Large multi-service vessels (MSVs), generally available only in the North Sea, are designed to support surface blowout control operations on offshore structures with cranes, fire pumps, monitors and living quarters. If available, MSVs, large cranes or stimulation vessels simplify surface blowout control intervention, Fig. 3.

In many ways surface blowout control onshore in remote areas can be more difficult. Water is needed to control fires, and protect men and equipment. Transportation and support issues are complex. Tables 1 and 2 list example requirements for onshore blowouts. The lists are not complete, but can be used for reference.

Table 2 - Surface Blowout (No Fire) Requirements
Safety & Medical
  • H2S / Paramedic services: detection and breathing air equipment, ambulance 
  • medical evacuation services ( helicopters, jet ambulance) 
  • medical services (burn - trauma care capability) 
  • flare pistol or rifle with flares 
  • large wheel mounted fire extinguishers 
  • cotton rags 
  • drinking water 
  • location rest and control trailer for well capping specialists 
  • video and still photographer to record operation 
  • location security and road blocks 
  • handheld radios, 4 mobile radios, additional telephone and fax line 
  • evacuation of local population and livestock 
  • wellhead equipment and service technicians 
  • well capping specialists (possible requirement for fire pump for protection) 
  • blowout technical advisors 
  • dedicated materials coordinator 
  • dedicated operations documentor and cost engineer 
  • welding / fabrication contractor 
  • machine shop: to provide custom tool fabrication and modification; 
  • in-country delivery / trucking services; 
  • pumping / cementing services 
  • water well driller, casing and pumps, pit liner (water supply requirement) 
  • possible snubbing and hot tap services and associated equipment 
Equipment and materials 
  • civil works contractor to provide: dozers excavator , front end loader, maintainer, dump trucks, water trucks, possible 200 to 300 ton crane (for >100 foot set-back with 50,000 pounds of pick-up), probable 150 ton hydraulic road crane, lube/fuel truck, forks for loader, air compressors and associated support personnel and skilled operators 
  • oil field rental tool equipment 
  • fabrication steel including angle iron, H-beams, steel plate (various thickness), tubing 
  • dry ice and insulated transport box 
  • portable generators and light plants 
  • common oil field supplies (ex: rope, chain, hooks, clamps, gauges) 
  • diesel powered centrifugal pumps for mud and water transfer 
  • reel of 1-1/8" soft lay steel cable for snub down lines and winches 


The expertise of qualified personnel and companies can prevent catastrophes. Blowout intervention projects are rare and experience from these specialized projects is invaluable. A justifiable premium is applied if experts are used, but the higher cost for special services can be insignificant compared to the consequences of a disaster.

One way to minimize logistics problems is to pre-qualify special services, equipment and contractors. A pre qualification plan enables operators to identify and source required services. Although time consuming, this simple task can have tremendous positive effects on project organization, coordination and implementation.

Pre-qualification of services and equipment is a cognitive, rational and dynamic process essential for efficient operations, but it is not a new idea. In typical E&P projects, the bidding process includes identifying vendors, establishing requirements, and evaluating services and costs. In some cases, final decisions are dependent only on low bids; not on adequate experience, competence, and ability to deliver goods or services. Most judgments however, should and often are made on technical capability versus project economics. Evaluations. Prospective services should be evaluated to identify and contract the most qualified suppliers. Scrutinizing service prices should be a secondary consideration. This requires an approach that operators are typically not accustomed to. A very interactive relationship must be established with vendors to achieve an unbiased decision making process.

Personal visits by operators to various companies are necessary. This can be delegated to several people, but only one individual should evaluate all prospective suppliers of a particular service. Evaluators should have a good working knowledge of this specialty through experience or investigation and should approach vendors in a formal manner. Vendors' corporate, regional and local organizations should be included.

Some companies have formal or informal groups of specialists (troubleshooters) that may not be known at local levels. A listing of these special groups and members should be made. Resumes and references of individuals and groups should be obtained and evaluated. Investigation of performance and work quality is key to this analysis. Checking references provides direct insight into service quality and individual qualifications. When experienced personnel are incorporated into a team, effective plans evolve. A proper plan implemented by qualified people produces success.

A corporate and local-level approach maximizes evaluation effectiveness. Specialized services (firefighting, blowout intervention engineering, electromagnetic ranging, blowout capping and snubbing equipment) can be assessed by a group of corporate experts for company wide approval. Local operating areas can evaluate regional level services. If company wide approved vendors are chosen, local organizations can establish specific lists of the most qualified vendors for a region.

Contracts and agreements. Pre qualification is an iterative process represented by the logical design path shown in Fig. 4. The first step is to define required special services and identify qualified vendors that provide these services. An unbiased evaluation phase is instituted and vendors are selected. Contractual agreements are made to maintain a team relationship and create a sense of preparedness within the team. Operators must maintain a list of vendor experts and contacts that will be notified in an emergency. A review of vendor status should be performed periodically to insure that the best people, equipment, and services are available. To maintain effectiveness, pre-qualification must be an ongoing process. A crisis is not the time for evaluation or re evaluation.

Follow-up. Emergencies require attention to life saving, personnel rescue, protecting property and investments, and problem resolution. Time is one of the few constraints of blowout intervention, so response time must be minimal. Continuous monitoring of available special services is mandatory.

Operators should carry out the following:


Mobilization. Blowout specialists are mobilized to begin survey and location preparations and define requirements at the well site within 24 to 48 hr of a blowout. Equipment follows this group to the blowout. Blowouts in remote areas and outside normal activity-intensive oilfield operations areas require extensive use of inter national air freight and local marine or land transport.

Long-haul shipping. It is possible to air freight firefighting, snubbing and well capping equipment any where in the world. This reduces the need to stock specialized equipment required for rare onshore burning blowouts. Offshore blowouts may require air transported equipment, but a 72 to 96-hr time window is generally sufficient to meet control schedules.

Availability of large Russian cargo aircraft significantly improves transportation options. The Antonov AN 124 aircraft can transport 140 metric tons (mt) of cargo and is available for commercial charter, Fig. 5. This type of plane was used to ship three Cat D9N bulldozers with winches per flight from Peoria, Illinois, to Kuwait in 1991. Only the U.S. Military Air lift Command with C5A aircraft, which are not commercially available, can come close to this capability. AN 124 aircraft require no specialized air cargo ground handling and offloading equipment. One AN-124 flight can transport almost all of the specialized intervention and control equipment for a major onshore blowout, whereas two or more 747 flights would be required .

Nose-load 747 cargo configurations are more available than AN-124 air craft, but have limited payload (about 80 mt), cargo clearance (7 ft 11 in. maximum height) and require scissors lift offloading equipment that may not be available. Smaller Hercules L-110-20 aircraft are available with a payload of about 34 mt and can land on smaller runways in remote areas. The Russian Ilyushian Il-76 aircraft is also commercially available. It is equivalent to the Hercules, but with a higher payload capability of about 45 mt. Hercules L-110-20 and Il-76 aircraft do not need special offloading equipment. Generally,747 and AN-124 aircraft are limited by internal volume capacity not payload.

Fig. 4. Pre-Qualification is an iterative process as represented by this logical design path.

Local transportation. Helicopters and VSTOL (very short takeofflanding) aircraft may be needed for remote onshore locations. These air craft facilitate transport of men and small equipment and are effective for evacuation of medial emergencies to hospitals. Local ground transportation should include wellsite personnel, base to wellsite transport and heavy equipment transport. Large oilfield platform trucks (Kenworth 953) with winch and tail roller are useful and can replace dozers in certain locations and applications (skid ding rig or debris removal). Semi-low trailers (75 t) are required to move heavy equipment, and normal oilfield bed floats are needed for general transport. 


As in military campaigns, it is better to manage and coordinate efforts at the front line where direct control of operations can take place. No competition or communication problems can develop between rear echelon management and front line efforts if this is the case. In many efforts, field groups and main offices disagree about required actions. If blowout control and coordination is to be accomplished at the wellsite, a field support base or command center is needed. Offices, conference room, communication equipment and file storage are required. Logistical and support efforts are coordinated from this base near the wellsite. Even major offshore blowouts have been successfully site managed. Major blowouts require a field support base. Steps should be taken immediately by operators to set up a base when blowout specialists are mobilized. Onshore, bases using rig camp, local production facilities or rental trailers have been used. Off shore bases may be an adjacent rig, platform, MSV or crane barge, Fig. 3. 


International phone and fax communication is needed, as well as base to-wellsite radio communication. Generally, a communication system exists to support operations prior to the blowout. This communication system forms the nucleus for an expanded system that is needed to control a blowout. Pre-planning for expanded communication capability when setting up the system for normal operations is needed. Capability to have additional telephone lines, microwave and radio frequencies should be built into original communication plans for an area. Communication equipment and computers require an uninterruptible power system (UPS) if generator power is used.

Onsite. Site communication is best handled with 5-Watt, intrinsically safe handheld radios. Head sets that work under hard-hats in high noise environments are available. Many radios and multiple channels may be required for large operations. Use of repeaters can give low-power FM radios good range in flat areas.

Long distance. If the support base is distant, it may require repeaters or larger 25 to 30-Watt radios that work with 5-Watt radios, but have greater range. More powerful FM radios are generally used in base or vehicle mounts. Single side band (SSB) or short wave radios can communicate over greater distances. Use of radios and allowable frequencies are con trolled by many governments. Operators should fully understand local regulations . International. Fax capability over radio exists and can be effective if the right equipment is used. If existing international phone capability does not exist at the well site, portable satellite systems are available for rent or purchase that can be carried in by blowout specialists. These systems are remarkably compact and can be checked as luggage. Essentially, these systems are an international phone and fax in a suitcase. 


Fig. 5. Availability of large Russian cargo aircraft significantly improves transportation options. Antonov AN-124 aircraft can transport 140 mt and are available for commercial charter.

Blowouts can result in massive payments to many contractors and suppliers. Operator financial and accounting departments need to provide support for handling new con tracts as well as control of immediate and potentially large cash flows out of the company that are over and above normal operating budgets.

The specialist blowout and fire fighting companies generally cannot sustain extended blowout control operations without prompt payment. Money will be needed to mobilize men and equipment and for air freight. For example, 747 aircraft cost over $250,000 per flight and payment is required up front. Letters of credit and other financial guarantees may be needed.

Cost control is not improved by delayed payments, which can result in late charges and inflated prices, and make it difficult to obtain required support. Emergency cost control procedures should be set up prior to a blowout. Contracts need to be in place ahead of time for potential service, material and equipment requirements for possible blowout scenarios within the company's operating region. Invoices can then be checked against contracted rates.

Pre-qualifying vendors for specified services, materials and equipment, and establishing call-off con tracts is the final step in blowout response preparations. Financial terms and conditions can be settled in advance along with contractual issues. It is critical for operators to under stand that agreements for emergency services are significantly different than contracts for normal operations. The basic difference is that start, duration and contract value for emergency services cannot be predicted in advance. Costs normally borne by contractors cannot be factored into rates as is the case for standard service contracts. Taxes and costs of special insurances (war risk, political risk, etc.) must be covered in addition to contracted fees. Blowout services contractors are responsible for their staff, but not much else.

Logistics and support are critical areas for successful blowout control. The financial burden of a potential blowout control operation needs to be evaluated. Blowouts have resulted in bankruptcy of operators insufficiently capitalized or insured to deal with a disaster.

Coming Next

Insurance. Blowouts are insurable, but premiums have escalated over the past few years. In some regions and for some wells, coverage may not be economical to obtain. Part 3 covers current insurance status, requirements and applications, and discusses potential for reduced premiums .
Next Article

Literature Cited

Schwarzkopf, General H. Norman, with Peter Petre, " It doesn't 't take a hero, The autobiography ", a Bantam Book, October 1992, pg. 341.  

The authors

James A. Tuppen is a firefighter for Boots & Coots, L. P., with expertise in snubbing and well control team management. His work has emphasized on-site specialized equipment, services and procedure development in diffficult situations and environments. Blowout control experience since he joined the company includes capping an underwater blowout and fire on Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela; supervising the first subsea snubbing job at Port Said, Egypt and action as lead firefghter in Kuwait He began his career in 1980 with Baker Well Service, snubbing division crew and worked as snubbing supervisor, district manager and contract snubbing consultant before joining Boots & Coots in 1987.