Recent Changes in IWCF Tests

By Bill Murchison, June 2018

Recently I renewed my IWCF Supervisor Level well control certification, and here are some observations from the test. First, the equipment test has changed considerably. There were not any diagrams with parts to label. When I began taking IWCF many years ago, there were lots of diagrams of annulars, rams, shear rams, IBOPs, kelly valves, accumulators, and diverters. Learning the various parts of blowout equipment and how they work was good for me. I spent twenty years as a professional golfer and I had never seen or used most of the equipment, so the training was useful. But, re-memorizing all the various parts of the equipment every two years for my test is not something that I will miss.

The IWCF has now replaced all of those equipment questions with lots of questions from the various API standards. There are hundreds of pages of regulations in the API Standard 53 (Blowout Prevention Equipment Systems for Drilling Wells), RP 64 (Recommended Practice for Diverter Systems Equipment and Operations), API SPEC 16C (Choke and Kill Systems), and API Spec 16D (Specification for Control Systems for Drilling Well Control Equipment and Control System for Diverter Equipment). Well control schools cannot go over every single regulation in length, so I strongly recommend all IWCF candidates to get the latest versions of the API standards and Recommended Practices and read them carefully before taking your IWCF class.

John Breidenthal, our Manager at the Houston Training Center, and I recently had conversations about what things need to be taught in a well control class. Well control centers cannot spend all their time covering hundreds of pages of regulations in the classes. There are many other things that need to be taught, such as the U-tube, Methods of Well Control, Causes of Kicks, Recognition of Kicks, Shut-in Methods, Barriers, Drillout Considerations, Limitations to Control Capability, Tripping (where 50% of kicks occur today), Drilling Fluids, Well Control Problems and Solutions, Kill Sheets, Horizontal Well Control, etc. Training providers must make sure that people leave with an excellent understanding of well control principles, not just equipment. In addition, a significant amount of simulator time is required in well control classes. Therefore, not everything can be covered in detail. So, my recommendation for everyone getting ready to take the IWCF class is to read the various API standards and recommended practices before taking the class.

Ever since the Macondo, there has been much more emphasis given to barriers, testing and verification of barriers, and documenting those barrier tests. The API Standard 53 goes into detail about the various ways that we must test and document the various barriers. They state how often they must be tested, how to test the barriers, how to know if the test is good, and how to document it. I encourage IWCF candidates to brush up on Inspection Tests, Function Tests, Pressure Tests, and Hydraulic Chamber Tests. Get familiar with the tables for Initial Tests and Subsequent Tests. Become familiar with the test pressures that the various components must be tested to for both the Initial and Subsequent Tests.

Murchison Drilling Schools has recently added many of these API standards and recommended practices into our Regulations chapter. (We do not have the copyright privileges to give out all the API documents, but we can mention some of the key regulations from the API documents.) We will cover many of these in our classes, but we will continue to make sure that our training is balanced and thorough. Our objective is to give people a good understanding of well control, not just the equipment.