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Part 4-Documented Contingency Plans: The first step to reduce vulnerability posed by a potential blowout is a documented emergency management and response system that will advise you of initiatives that must be addressed

John W. Wright and James F. Woodruff, Blowout Advisors, John Wright Co., and
David Thompson, Blowout Specialist, Boots & Coots L.P.

This article discusses Blowout Contingency Plan development with discussions on: 1) document scope and content- why a BCP is needed and what it should cover, and 2) BCP organization-how a typical five-part plan is developed, including example outlines. Also described is the need for a separate Workbook to backup the BCP organization and keep it up to date. Part 1 of this series discussed strategy and planning, and introduced the concepts of Blowout Contingency Plans (BCPs) and the Blowout Task Force. Two types of BCPs, general and specific, were defined and what an effective contingency plan should include was listed and described.

Figure above: Relief well and snubbing operation at time of blowout intersection illustrates the many tasks that must be coordinated through proper planning. 



In view of stringent environmental and safety issues faced by today's operators, emergency contingency plans are no longer an optional, risk-management business decision. Today's managers who have the responsibility for responding to emergencies that affect the general public or the environment must either be prepared or face the consequences.

The following discussion explains the basic blowout contingency plan document with respect to the following:



A BCP rationale. Hazardous waste, occupational health and safety, and air/water pollution and the effect on the environment are primary public issues. Most companies have emergency contingencies, but many are not prepared for rapidly responding to natural or man-made disasters. Unfortunately, several emergencies have occurred in recent years that have escalated into major crises, as perceived by the general public.

Public inquiries into these crises, in some cases, indicated the companies at fault were not properly prepared in their response. Therefore, it follows that, through public and regulatory logic, the whole industry must not be prepared. And aftermaths of these inquiries typically result in new government regulations with increasingly complex laws and compliance issues that substantially increase costs, limit operational capabilities and may not be fully appropriate across the board.

These laws affect the entire oil and gas industry, not just the companies involved, as the subsequent imposed emergency preparedness statutes evolve into an industry-wide problem. A viable emergency management program advertises a company's commitment to protect its workers, the general public and the environment. It meets compliance with federal, state and local regulations and it protects stockholders from liability and litigation. Failure to address these issues may have disastrous results.

Contingency planning goals. The primary purpose of a BCP is to minimize danger to life, and protect the environment and valuable assets by minimizing response times and incorrect actions taken under stress. Obviously, in an emergency, the more details that have been worked out in advance, the more efficient the response will be. All blowouts and subsequent intervention techniques are inherently different. The range of situations can vary from a minor event in an easily accessible unpopulated land location, to a catastrophic worst case scenario near a populated area or a sensitive offshore location, with thousands of variations in between.

This makes it impractical to cover all possibilities in a general contingency document. However, for rapid response, a structured organization and technical guidelines, with examples and trigger mechanisms, is essential.

The key to efficient risk management, with respect to contingency planning, is being able to weigh risk vs. con sequence of the current preparedness plan against cost (insurance) of doing more. One objective of a BCP is to help a company determine an efficient level of preparedness.

Document structure. A BCP should ideally be a subset of a general "All hazards" emergency response plan.6 The general plan would cover emergency management issues for a variety of typical hazards faced by an operating company, e.g., natural disasters (storms, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes); production/process failures (fires, explosions, spills/releases); society hazards (kidnapping, hostages, terrorism, war); transportation hazards; and blowouts.

The purpose of making the BCP a subset of a general response plan is to establish a standard format for emergency management regardless of the hazard type. If the framework of the general plan is properly designed, it should fit a wide variety of operations and locations. This should simplify the emergency management portion of the BCP as a framework has already been adopted by the company for other emergencies.

Fig. 6. Example emergency management organization to satisfy Phase 1 of the BCP's Part 1.

Project "Life-cycle" concept. Every project has a life-cycle, i.e., the beginning and end of its evolutionary phases. A description of this cycle would describe those phases in a systematic fashion. Critical objectives are used to describe turning points in the process and mark transitions from one phase to the next. Thus, understanding the evolution of events necessary to complete a blowout control project is obviously a pre-requisite to developing BCP objectives.

Global objectives for a control operation may be generally described as follows:

  1. Emergency response activated
  2. Management team in place
  3. Blowout control team in place
  4. Blowout data analyzed
  5. Control options(s) chosen
  6. Necessary logistics initiated
  7. Blowout control plan complete
  8. Blowout control completed
  9. Well P&A'd or put in service
  10. Clean-up complete
  11. Legal implications settled
  12. Final reports completed.

The BCP must address each action required to achieve the example 12 life-cycle objectives. As development of the BCP is a project in itself, its life cycle must also be defined along with a method for periodic revision, audit and testing. 



There is no best approach that should be universally utilized for developing a BCP. A non-mainstream approach taken by one company may be more appropriate for its organization and resources than trying to utilize a technique applied successfully by another firm. Each company must look inside its own house and evaluate its philosophy, organization and resources with respect to confronting a control operation in its operating area.

The BCP organization presented here is a simple example based on the program of an international company with operating districts in diverse geographic and political areas around the world. It will require input from each local district to complete a plan that is customized to its particular internal resources, management structure and operating environment.

The BCP Workbook. The required initial input noted above can be facilitated by a Workbook that acts as a guideline and bridging document for local management, for completing its specific BCP. It is recommended that this Work book be the vehicle which assures a consistent framework throughout the company and lets the local management team and responders provide plan input. Experience has shown that plans developed by one person or one group will not be used in an emergency.

The Workbook document will be developed at a corporate level with assistance of management, safety and environment, engineering and operations personnel. An outside blowout advisor should be consulted, as well as any service company specialist who might be called to assist in a blowout emergency. It will guide a local operating district in developing Parts 1 through 5 of a custom BCP. And it will contain reasoning, suggestions and examples behind these actions, along with instructions for the local district on customizing the BCP for its area and keeping it up to date. Keep the Workbook separate to allow the actual emergency document to be brief and to the point.

Five-part BCP organization. The completed BCP can be divided into five major parts, as described below and illustrated in Fig. 5, excluding the Workbook. This organization is based on functionality and actions required.

  1. Part 1-Blowout control management. This document will address organization, management and actions required to respond to an actual blowout emergency. This section will be relatively brief, stating only policy and actions required during intervention phases. This will include responding to the initial emergency through final blowout control, P&A, spill clean-up, and any legal insurance or other financial obligations resolved. Fig. 6 details the emergency management phase of Part 1.
  2. Part 2-Pre-blowout contingency, risk. This document will address organization, management and actions required to perform "Pre blowout" risk and consequence assessment and procedures for various levels of specific contingency planning of existing fields, structures, individual wells, and planned future drilling pro grams. These specific plans will be based on a risk vs. consequence equation. This equation would justify additional expenditures for being better prepared than relying only on management and logistics procedures covered in Part 1. This section is also designed to be relatively brief, stating only policy and required actions.
  3. Part 3-Contractors database. This document presents a database of critical contractors and services, which includes items such as. blowout control contractors, specialty equipment, materials, related service companies, consultants and software. It would be categorized and contain phone numbers, addresses, contact personnel, relevant services, brochures, special blowout control services (how they would fit into a local control project), company experience, alliances with other companies, and personnel CVs. Further, contract requirements and terms/conditions for working on a project in a particular part of the world should be included.
  4. Part 4 -Technical library. Documents identified in this part address reference materials and procedures and would be voluminous compared to the other sections. This should include all in-house and external approved procedures for blowout control operations, risk analysis, specific contingency planning, blowout control tools, blowout control materials, published papers, industry blowout database records, case histories, and other relevant material. References would be made from the other management and actions portions of the BCP to this section.
  5. Part 5 - Company confidential files. This final document addresses confidential files such as pre-qualification ranking, evaluation discussion and call-off contracts with critical con tractors and service companies. Blowout insurance policies, legal procedures and associated documentation requirements should also be included. Also, any other relevant items including emergency financing arrangements. Public relations, press, or legal documents and procedures of a confidential nature should be kept in this file.
Table 2. Sample blowout control contingency plan, Parts 1 and 2
1.0 Introduction 
1.1 Nondisclosure statement 
1.2 Approval sheet 
1.3 Distribution sheet 
1.4 Preface 
1.5 Executive summary 
1.6 Table of contents 
1.7 Amendments 
1.8 Instruction on how to use the plan 

2.0 Part 1-Blowout control management 

2.1 Administration section 

    2.1.1 Purpose and objectives of Part 1 
    2.1.2 Company policy and strategy statements 
    2.1.3 Definitions and acronyms related to Part 1 
    2.1.4 Blowout control project phase descriptions 
    1 - High risk, potential blowout situation 
    2 - Blowout to task force in place 
    3 - Blowout control planning phase 
    4 - Blowout control execution phase 
    5 - Cleanup, P & A and/or remedial work 
    6 - Final legal and financial settlement 


2.2 Management and response organization 

    2.2.1 Executive management 
    2.2.2 Support management 
    2.2.3 Emergency management organization 
    2.2.4 Blowout control task force 
    2.2.5 Blowout control crises team 
    2.2.6 Technical support organization 
    2.2.7 Operations and logistics support 
    2.2.8 Field control group (capping) 
    2.2.9 Field control group (relief well) 

2.3 Organization project responsibility definitions 

    2.3.1 Contingency planning responsibilities 
    2.3.2 Actual blowout responsibilities 

2.4 Emergency communication 
2.5 Blowout response level classification 

    2.5.1 Level 1-High risk operation, no blowout has occurred, but probability of escalation is high or consequences are high. 
    2.5.2 Level 2-Blowout has occurred, flowrates are low, complexity of control operation is low, there is little chance of escalation, there is no pollution and no danger to local public and total company exposure is low. 
    2.5.3 Level 3-A blowout has occurred and control complexity is high. Blowout rates are high, or there is a chance for escalation, or there is pollution, or there is danger to local population, or the total exposure to company is high. 

2.6 Implementing procedures & actions 

    2.6.1 Actions at the blowout site 
    2.6.2 Actions at the office 
    2.6.3 Check lists 

2.7 Blowout control planning, Phase 3 

    2.7.1 Blowout data acquisition requirements 
    2.7.2 Blowout severity classification 
    2.7.3 Strategy to evaluate blowout control options 
    2.7.4 Iterative design process 
    2.7.5 HAZOP study 
    2.7.6 Logistics review 
    2.7.7 Emergency facilities and equipment 

2.8 Blowout control execution, Phase 4 

    2.8.1 Plan implementation and project forecasts 
    2.8.2 Daily planning meetings 
    2.8.3 Safety and environmental protection 
    2.8.4 Regulatory agency involvement 
    2.8.5 Data collection and evaluation 
    2.8.6 Progress monitoring 
    2.8.7 Identifying milestones 
    2.8.8 Planning alternative actions 
    2.8.9 Judging completion-Is it over? 

2.9 Post blowout control-Phase 5 & 6 

    2.9.1 Post blowout safety 
    2.9.2 P & A or remedial procedures 
    2.9.3 Clean-up 
    2.9.4 Legal and financial issues 
    2.9.5 Final reports 

3.0 Part 2-Pre-blowout contingency plans 
3.1 Field and well specific data archival 
3.2 Risk assessment of existing producing fields and planned drilling activities 

    3.2.1 Identification of blowout possibilities 
    3.2.2 Estimate of probability of the event 
    3.2.3 Estimate of consequences of the event 
    3.2.4 Risk assessment of the event 

3.3 Judging need for a specific contingency plan 
3.4 Contingency plan evaluation 
3.5 Establishing and maintaining emergency readiness 
3.6 Training 
3.7 Pre-qualification of critical contractors 

A simplified BCP outline is shown in Table 2. The selected outline should coincide with a format consistent with your company's existing "All hazard" emergency management and response program. The basic objectives of the final plan should not change, however, from company to company. Note that the exact wording of this example follows the general subsections of Fig. 5, Parts 1 and 2 in context even though the terminology differs somewhat. The chart of Fig. 6 also corresponds generally to Part 1, Section 2.2. 

Coming Next

The central component of all blowout control operations is planning and execution of the kill hydraulics. Key questions include: what fluid should be used, what density, how much volume is required, what pressures will be exerted on the system, what flowrate and rate of change should be used, and how much hhp needs to be mobilized? These and associated questions will be covered. 

Literature Cited

1. Sikich, G. W, " It can't happen here: All hazard crisis management planning ", PennWell Publishing Co., Tulsa, Okla., 1993. 

The authors

James F. Woodruff, a principal in John Wright Co., which specializes in blowout intervention and control, contingency planning, relief well engineering and rigsite execution, graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a BS degree in mining and civil engineering. He began work with Dowell Schlumberger Drilling Services in 1981, as a directional drilling engineer in the Far East In 1986, he joined Eastman Christensen and served in various positions from drilling services coordinator to relief-well team drilling engineer. He has authored manuals on steerable motors and horizontal drilling. Recently, he supervised intervention planning and execution for an underground blowout in Nigeria and assisted Mr. Thompson in Argentina with a high-volume underground blowout. Mr. Woodruff is a registered professional engineer in Texas and a member of SPE.

David Thompson is a fire fighter for Boots & Coots L.P., with expertise in cap ping, wellhead equipment, and blowout control team management. He began his career in the oilfield in 1973 with Amoco ProductionCo. He was subsequently employed by Cameron Iron Works, and joined Boots & Coots in 1984. His work has emphasized on-site specialized equipment, services and procedure development for blowout control. Blowout control experience since joining the present company includes capping a burning H2S well in Mississippi; re-entering and killing a subsea blowout offshore Italy; action as lead firefighter while in Kuwait; and recent capping, snubbing and killing of a unique high-volume under ground blowout in Argentina.