Emergency landing while well sinking

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Draugen’s emergency response procedures were put to the test on Friday 13 December 2002, after a fire threat had been reported on one of the other Norwegian Sea facilities.
— Tidens Krav, 18 December 2002
© Norsk Oljemuseum

All available resources were mobilised, as is the practice until a full overview of the circumstances has been established. Fortunately, the fire threat was quickly clarified. Immediately afterwards, the area emergency response was redirected to the Draugen platform following the activation of an alarm.

A rumble had passed through the whole structure after one of the wells had suddenly begun to settle, and the rare decision was taken to evacuate all non-essential personnel.

This process was under way by helicopter when a Super Puma Mk II en route to Heidrun had to make a “safety” landing on Draugen – blocking its helideck for continued evacuation. Eighteen people had been on their way from Kristiansund’s Kvernberget airport when warning lights began flashing in the cockpit to show that the tail gearbox was overheating.

The landing on Draugen was uneventful and Heidrun operator Statoil ¬– responsible for the passengers – preferred to use the word “safety” rather than “emergency”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Tidens Krav, 18 December 2002, “Trippeltrøbbel på Haltenbanken”.
But an unscheduled helicopter arrival was not the only challenge facing Draugen’s crew. Four days earlier, the best production well on the field had began to create problems.

During a planned workover, the well began to settle. The casing sank a total of 44 centimetres, without the borehole collapsing. The position was so uncertain that the platform had to shut down completely.

Tor Bjerkestrand, offshore installation manager (OIM) on Draugen during the incident, reported that it was a pretty busy time. Things were made no easier by the fact that the helicopter which put down in the middle of the well incident had a TV team from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) on board.

It was heading for Heidrun to produce a Christmas report, but found itself instead included in the head count of those scheduled for evacuation from Draugen because of the problems on board. But all regular work on the platform was halted that day, and no work permits not associated with the incident were issued. The TV crew were unable to film, nor did anyone have time to be interviewed.

The damaged helicopter flew back to Kristiansund later the same day with crew only on board. Its passengers were taken off by another machine during the afternoon and reached their destination a few hours behind schedule. It was unclear at first how the well had shifted. It was shut in, and Shell put on its thinking cap. The group’s international organisation was contacted, but nobody had encountered anything similar before.

Nor had the service industry experienced a well which settled without collapsing, and therefore had no immediate solution to the problem – which turned out to be caused by downhole corrosion.

While remaining wells eventually came back on stream, Shell sought to compensate for the production shortfall by increasing output from other wells on the field.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 8 January 2003, “Ingen forstår seg på Draugen-brønn”.
The shutdown had coincided with the highest crude prices for two years as a result of a crisis in Iraq and the Arabian Gulf and unrest in Venezuela with strikes and demonstrations.

However, Norske Shell and the other licensees did not regard the production halt as a loss of revenue. The lost output would be recovered later – but at an unknown price. In fact, crude prices continued to rise, apart from a small downturn the following May. The problem well was later repaired and brought back on stream.
Although the emergency system and collaboration between operators functioned as intended, this was nevertheless a day response personnel on Halten Bank would not forget in a hurry.

Published August 8, 2018   •   Updated October 18, 2018
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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