Relevant Well Control Training for All Personnel

By Bill Murchison, Jr., CEO of Murchison Drilling Schools

In February 2015, I was helping to teach a well control class for a major operator. Our text book for the class was Well Control for the Man on the Rig, written by my father nearly forty years ago. Although the well control manual had been updated many times, the name of the manual had not been changed. At the time it had been written, there were very few women working in the field. Today, there are considerably more women. The name of the manual was not intended to be sexist; it merely conveyed that it was written for field personnel. In that particular class there was a woman that took exception to the title of the book. She recommended that we change the name of the book. She thought we would be better served if our materials were directed at all people, not just men. At Murchison Drilling Schools, we are more concerned with training than titles. If the title of the book hindered the message and the training, we were happy to oblige. I instructed our staff to change the name of the manual, and it simply became the Murchison Well Control Manual from that point forward. The name may have changed, but the intent of the manual and our training was still the same; we desire to make well control training practical and relevant for all field people.

In December 2016, Thomas Galassi, the Director of the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), put out a memorandum to all his Regional Administrators. In it, he said that the oil and gas industry has a fatality rate that is seven times higher than all U.S. industries. In a seven year period between 2003 and 2010, there were 823 workers killed on the job. The purpose of the memorandum was to identify serious hazards, applicable industry and consensus standards, and to establish OSHA’s enforcement role. The memorandum covered a broad number of topics from personal protective equipment, H2S, protection from dropped objects, etc. On page 24, OSHA specifically addressed well control operations. There were three key words that are repeatedly mentioned: Develop, Implement, Train. Companies must develop and implement a well control plan. They must make sure all personnel are trained in the use of the equipment, and in drilling activities, like tripping, that could cause well control hazards. Personnel must be trained in basic well control as needed, in relation to their job duties. The memorandum made specific references to API RP 54 and 59.

After the Macondo incident, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) put together their recommendations to the industry, which is known as OGP Report 476. In it they stated what level of well control training was appropriate for different job descriptions. For example, they recommended that mud loggers, derrickmen, roughnecks, fishing tool operators and directional drillers maintain a Level 2 (Introductory) well control certification. They recommended that assistant drillers and drillers maintain a Level 3 (Driller) well control certification. They recommended that toolpushers, company men, wellsite supervisors, and superintendents maintain a Level 4 (Supervisor) well control certification. Each level of training was to help personnel carry out their respective duties in a well control operation.

The International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) and the International Well Control Forum (IWCF) adopted the recommendations that were given in OGP Report 476. Even though the IOGP, IADC, and IWCF all agreed on these recommendations, and have made great efforts to get these implemented in our industry, the recommendations were not required by the various regulatory bodies. However, it appears that the language in the new OSHA memorandum embraces these recommendations. Companies will now need to make sure that all their personnel receive well control training appropriate to their job duties. The OSHA requirements have significant implications for all personnel. Everyone, no matter what position or role, should receive well control training and be knowledgeable. Like the Murchison Well Control Manual, training should be relevant and practical for all field people.