April 16, 2024 | Susan Napier-Sewell

What would you find on your rig during a “hazard hunt” on explosion-proof boxes?

Say you’re conducting a hunt on your rig. Like a “hazard hunt” focused on explosion-proof electrical boxes.

In this particular rig incident, a damaged explosion-proof box near the shale shakers became the ignition source for gas breaking out of the non-aqueous mud returns, and the resulting explosion ignited a fire in the mud itself. 

High gas was present on the rig around the shakers because a bottoms-up after a bit trip was not circulated through the choke manifold and the mud-gas separator to manage the increased gas contained in the mud.

Instead, the system relied on gas breaking out in the flowline and venting to the mud-gas separator. Is your system plumbed so that it can accommodate occasional higher gas concentrations? Are your crews trained to anticipate such situations and to respond properly?

Gas breakout from mud returns migrates to ignition source.

Unconventional oil-producer. Drilling assembly was pulled out of hole, new drilling assembly tripped back to bottom. Production hole drilling operations resumed, no bottoms-up circulated prior to recommencing drilling operations. While drilling ahead, shortly before bottoms-up, gas units (recorded at possum bellies) showed increasing trend in tandem with increased flow (recorded at flowline via flo-sho device) and flare actuated (dedicated flare line from MGS).

The on-tour driller heard a “hiss and loud pop” between shakers and substructure area, then observed smoke in the vicinity of the rig floor/substructure /drawworks; then a fire was observed at the shakers.

The driller ceased rotation of the drilling assembly and turned the mud pumps off, departed the rig floor, and secured the well by functioning the annular preventer closed from the accumulator unit. All on-duty personnel were mustered. Pipe rams were functioned closed from the accumulator unit to further secure the well, the rig was powered down, fuel sources isolated. Fire-fighting services were called to the location to extinguish the fire.

What went wrong on the rig?

Compromised explosion-proof equipment in a classified area (Class I – Division I), gas present in the area of compromised explosion-proof equipment, “unconventional flowline vent conduit” (see figure below), non-aqueous drilling fluid.

“Unconventional flowline vent conduit” (see photographs) – common configuration on North American unconventional operations – rotating head in use, low-pressure piping routed from flowline (upstream of shaker isolation valve) to the MGS (isolation valve inline) intended to harvest high gas content and route it to the MGS without closing the BOP and routing fluid through the choke. This configuration is hazardous since if the valve isolating the flowline from the MGS is not closed (or holding pressure) then gas can escape the MGS to the flowline/shakers during well control operations using the MGS. Additionally, this equipment configuration is not an engineered process and thus should not be depended upon to harvest high gas levels; management of gas should be done through dedicated pressure control equipment (BOP/choke manifold/etc.).

Corrective actions and recommendations:

  • Hazardous location integrity inspection of rig electrical systems should be performed upon rig acquisition and after work is performed on electrical system intrinsically safe and explosion-proof equipment.
  • Adequate training of rig crews regarding explosion-proof and intrinsically safe equipment, with a focus on maintenance and the importance of potential ignition source equipment being in working order.
  • Perform analysis of the drilling unit’s gas management system upon rig acquisition and prior to system modification.
  • Provide technical/human factors well control training to drill-site crews with emphasis on industry best practices for drilling operations and gas management.

Figure 1a. Unconventional flowline vent conduit
The flowline vent conduit is not a conventional, engineered means of managing gas. Crews should not rely on this configuration to handle high gas levels; BOP equipment should be used.

Figure 1b. Unconventional flowline vent conduit

Figure 2. Rig & equipment layout
Schematic showing arrangement of relevant rig equipment positioning.

Figure 3. Failed explosion-proof box
Class 1 Division 1 explosion-proof box failure at shale shaker area.

Figure 4. Failed junction housing
Failed junction housing showed similar damage as the failed explosion-proof box in the shale shaker area.

Figure 5. Fire damage of rig equipment
Shale shaker, MGS, pit areas and surrounding equipment damaged by the fire which began at the shale shakers.

This Well Control Incident Lesson Sharing is from the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers, IOGP WCI Lesson Sharing 20-3. See the IOGP Safety Zone for health and safety-related information relevant to operations in the upstream oil and gas industry.

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Accident, Equipment Reliability / Equifactor®, Investigations
Show Comments

2 Replies to “What would you find on your rig during a “hazard hunt” on explosion-proof boxes?”

  • shahram vatanparast says:

    Many Thanks Susan for sharing this IOGP alert, i would appreciate you would share more such incident in future .. not all people have access to such valuable data

    • Susan Napier-Sewell says:

      You are so welcome. Thank you so much for your kind observation. We endeavor to address a range of incidents and accidents because so many corporations and individuals can relate to our Monday articles and, hopefully, learn from them. TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis is focused on helping people achieve world-class performance by finding and fixing the real root causes of human performance and equipment problems.

      Stay safe and healthy!

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