The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released its final report Wednesday on the organization’s investigation of the Jan. 22, 2018, explosion and fire that occurred at a gas drilling well near Quinton.
Nineteen recommendations were made by the CSB to federal and state agencies, independent associations, and the companies involved “to help prevent future catastrophic blowouts during onshore oil and gas drilling operations.”
"Although regulations and guidance for the onshore drilling industry are somewhat limited, the blowout and massive fire at the Pryor Trust Well was completely preventable," said CSB Interim Executive Chairperson Dr. Kristen Kulinowski. "Our findings and recommendations should be used by the drilling industry and regulators to promote safer operations. This was a senseless tragedy that did not need to occur."
Kulinowski said the CSB's investigation found "significant lapses in good safety practices at this site."
CSB investigators determined the cause of the blowout and rig fire was the failure of both the primary barrier — the hydrostatic pressure produced by drilling mud — and the secondary barrier — human detection of influx and activation of the blowout preventer — which were intended to be in place to prevent a blowout.
"Our investigation found that both of those barriers failed during a 14-hour period where dangerous conditions were building at the well," Kulinowski said. "The safety management system was simply not effective and the result was a catastrophic blowout and fire."
CSB Lead Investigator Lauren Grim said many factors contributed to the failure of both barriers.
"The CSB's goal is to improve the safety of onshore drilling operations," said Grim. "We want to ensure that the onshore drilling industry uses the lessons from this incident to prevent future catastrophic blowouts."
"The CSB found minimal federal regulations governing the safety of onshore oil and gas drilling operations," said Kulinowski.
The agency issued 19 recommendations to eight entities after its investigation found that nine key issues led to the explosion and fire that killed five men and severely injured a sixth man.
For the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the CSB recommended the agency apply the process safety management standard to the drilling of oil and gas wells, or, apply the standard and modify the standard to the drilling of oil and gas wells, or as a third option, create a new detailed standard for oil and gas drilling with detailed procedures.
CSB gave five recommendations to the American Petroleum Institute including the implementation of automatic safety systems, developing safety guidelines during the tripping process, alarm management, addressing the protection of workers from explosion and fire hazards, evacuation procedures, and updating documents to specify that it applies to both onshore and offshore operations. The International Association of Drilling Contractors was recommended to participate in the development of practices with the American Petroleum Institute.
Patterson-UTI also received five recommendations by the CSB, including the development of detailed corporate or rig-specific tripping procedures, developing an alarm philosophy and rationalization for rig operations, requiring the regular testing of drillers’ influx detection and response skills, implementing policies for flow checks to be documented, and updating the company'smetrics program to focus on measuring various safety management systems.
Red Mountain Operating was issued two recommendations, to develop a new policy that a well-specific well construction interface document be in place before drilling operations and for the company to develop a management of change policy governing real-time changes to the operations and drilling plan.
Pason Systems Inc. and National Oilwell Varco were both recommended to design their interface system to allow contractors to pre-set different alarms for different situations and to design the electronic drilling data system so that alarm information is provided to customers.
The State of Oklahoma received a recommendation to establish and implement safety regulations requiring oil and gas well operators to develop and implement certain safety and operating procedures prior to conducting drilling operations. "The CSB determined that the laws in Oklahoma; are not focused on safety, instead they stress rules that appear to be intended to maximize production and eliminate the loss of hydrocarbons," Kulinowski said.
Once the recommendations are issued formally by the board, the recipients are formally contacted and contact is maintained by the CSB over the course of however long it takes to close these recommendations, Kulinowski said.
"It is an active process for us," she said.
The CSB's full report can be found at https://www.csb.gov/pryor-trust-fatal-gas-well-blowout-and-fire/
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