Maersk Training takes one of the most crucial operations in the oil industry and rethinks how to increase safety and proficiency at the same time
How do you take people who may be the absolute best at what they do and make them better?
The answer is you start a course where most other courses end, with a crucial test. Without passing the test on day one you can’t take part in the rest of the course. Maersk Training and the International Well Control Forum (IWCF) see this as the way to drive the oil and gas industry to an even higher standard of safety and compliance.
The current top level is IWCF’s Level 4, to get on the new Enhanced Well Control course, the potential participant must have passed this twice with a minimum of 80% in all three tests. Then on day one of the course they do it again. Once passed, the participant enters a whole new learning experience, one that will push individual capabilities to previously unthought of heights through collaborative thinking.
Maersk Training has been pushing educational boundaries for decades and is an industry leader in using simulation to create controllable reality, but this is the first time that they have opened up such a course to all drilling contractors. They believe that the best way to raise standards throughout the entire industry is to create a learning environment that can take the best learning practices from everyone.
‘There is no room for in-box thinking in this industry,’ says Jan Olsen, Maersk Training’s chief drilling instructor. ‘People move from rig to rig and company to company, so raising the bar on standards is vital. I was talking to a senior driller who had worked for one company for 25 years and in that time had attended 20 Well Control courses. He was desperately looking for a way to stay fresh and motivated. This course will do it, and more.’
Open Course Opens Minds
Beyond setting a higher standard for the current top level of well control certification, the new five-day course incorporates Crew Resource Management, responding to the fact that the initial trigger to many non-natural incidents lies in the actions of the individual. Globally Maersk Training has championed using and developing the lessons through ‘the human element’ as witnessed and used to good effect for decades by the airline industry and space travel.
For the first time anywhere, the participants in an enhanced well control course will not come from a single company. It will be open to all players in the industry, but only to senior staff, those who have attained the IWCF Level 4. There will be a maximum of ten participants on each course.
These participants are, as Maersk Training’s Chief Operating Officer, Thorbjorn Anhoj describes them, ‘the key people on the well site that make key decisions that can determine the future of companies, both drilling contractor and operators. So ultimately the whole future of that company is in the hands of a very few people on the rig.’
Thorbjorn believes that as individuals working with the confines of an individual company the boundaries of development are restricted. ‘A closed course is not really changing the whole industry, we work as individual companies improving a little bit here and a little bit there. For the industry to change you really need everybody to exchange experiences and ideas in order to raise the standards of everyone.
When Best Is Maybe Not Good Enough
Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have to make decisions that cross the border of no return. It is in making those decisions that the fate of the crew, the rig and the company, is held in the hands and minds of a few skilled employees. They may think they are the best and cushioned by that, lurks the danger of complacency. ‘To get rid of this risk of complacency you need to open up, listen to others and have a deep look at yourself,’ adds Thorbjorn, ‘and there is no better platform to do it than on an open course with an external provider like Maersk Training who work with all the majors in the industry.’
The Enhanced Well Control programme is not just a course it is a mission to take best practices to continually higher levels. Those best practices are monitored and promoted by the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) and their recommendations for human factor skills which form the non-technical side of the courses. There are two technical instructors and one human skills specialist as well as an independent invigilator on each course, the first of which is on April 9. It will be held in Svendborg, Denmark, but the open EWC course will also be available in the vital oil hubs of Aberdeen and Houston.
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A Case History
At Maersk Training a major objective is to put competency on the rig floor, not certificates on the walls. Recently in the Houston centre a crew was taking part in one of the training organisation’s unique learning processes. A totally immersive experience where the crew are put into real-life scenarios using simulators that cover the entire drilling operation. Some of the drillers underperformed.
Operations manager Kim Laursen pointed out, ‘the objective was for them to be able to detect and feel what a kick is like and then have the confidence to take the appropriate action without worrying about consequences like ‘am I going to get fired for doing this? It should be muscle memory and that is what they managed to achieve with the extra Enhanced Well Control class.’
The crew were recalled and the drilling company paid for a specific enhanced well control course. This time the crew reached the standard set by Maersk Training. Within two weeks, simulation turned to reality for one of the drillers and he managed to shut in a kick of just three barrels. It was a single action which paid for the training course over and over.
‘What we did for that driller was to give him the confidence to get out of the situation, safely and efficiently. It gave him the authority to do it and he has that and the responsibility. Half the crew is sleeping comfortably in the knowledge that the guy at the controls will get them through their shifts and the home, safely.’
Maersk Training itself is the result of an oilfield blowout. A tragedy in the North Sea forty years ago lead to a training centre in Svendborg in Denmark with the principal aim of lifting skills and competences of crews to a level far beyond on-the-job training and classroom certification. The rusting remains of the travelling block of the doomed rig today stand in the gardens of the centre. To non-oil people it is a piece of modern art, to visiting oilmen a stark reminder of how unforgiving this working environment can be.
There is barely a sea in the world, or oil operating company, where rigs and platforms haven’t been damaged or destroyed by blowouts, many of them with fatal consequences. Over the past fifty years there have been nearly 50 major incidents in which a blowout was the primary or resultant cause. 1980 was the worst year with eight separate accidents from the Gulf of Mexico to Hainan Island, from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Guinea to the North and Norwegian Seas.
History of exploration and recovery is punctuated by compounded errors like the Enchova Central Platform which was operating in the Campos Basin near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1984. A blowout caused an explosion and subsequent fire on the platform. The majority of the workers aboard were evacuated via helicopter or lifeboats, and survived the accident. 42 other workers weren’t so lucky, 36 of them dying when their lifeboat lowering mechanism malfunctioned and the plunged into the sea.
Accident Becomes Tragedy
The worst blowout incident in terms of loss of human life over the past half century was in Mexican waters in 2007. Twenty-two died on the PEMEX jackup Usumacinta along with two seamen from one of the rescue vessels . A storm forced the rig to move and caused a blowout. Eight meter high waves disturbed the anchors and the auxiliary cover below the cantilever collided with the wellhead creating a leak of oil and gas. The crew fought for over two hours and for a while were temporarily successful but when H2S gas was detected the abandon rig call was made. All 73 were accounted for in the two lifeboats but both capsized and only 51 made it safely onto the two rescuing supply vessels.
The devastating Macondo disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico eclipsed the earlier Montara incident off Australia’s north west coast, but they are still counting the cost of both, over eight years on. The immediate news covered the human story, the loss of life and injury, but the effects of the oil spills continue to fill court rooms with class actions.
The failure to control a single oil well can cost a single company more than the gross national product of 136 of the world’s 211 countries. BP have recently put a figure on what it cost them, $62 billion – for that figure you could run Kenya for a year. The failure to control a well can come down to just a handful of people. The failure to control a well is where nature out-maneuvers training. The operating team in the drill house may have only seconds to take a course of corrective action, to regain control and all the time there is the concern that a single spark could turn an incident into a tragedy.
The Montara incident spilled oil into the Timor Sea for 74 days and caused damage far flung from Australian territorial waters affecting Indonesian fishermen. Governments can determine international nautical boundaries, the sea is controlled by nature, but it is man and his skills that is responsible for what is in it.
What others say about Maersk Training’s approach to pushing the learning boundaries.
‘I’m very glad that Maersk Training involved us in the collaboration. They have been very pro-active in promoting this very much needed initiative within the industry.’
David Conroy, Chief Technical Officer, International Well Control Forum
For more information please click on Enhanced Well Control
or contact Christian Dalgaard Sørensen, Direct: +45 63 219 948, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org