Lack of adequate procedures cause of Suncor rig blowout

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

As they did not have any significant experience with deep drilling, high pressure gas wells, they "defaulted" to their previous training and experience when there was a loss of well control.

On March 9, 2012 workers were alerted to an increase in drilling fluid volume. The crew shut the well, but the casing pressure continued to climb, so they opened it to flow in an attempt to relieve pressure. The failure occurred 40 minutes after the first alarm, when the casing pressure exceeded 27,000 kPa. The site was evacuated and the rig caught fire not long after, destroying it.
An analysis of the piping components found one failure that occurred on the drilling fluid return line that didn't occur as a result of damage from the fire. It indicated that there was a pre-existing fatigue crack was present on a joint, which would make it susceptible to failure with a "relatively small" bending load. This is considered a contributing factor to the loss of well control, along with the inadequate training.
Suncor has been instructed to ensure all wellsite personnel are properly trained, and the company has developed a training course specific to the area.
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