Miercoles 9 de Diciembre – 11 hs

Distinguished Lecturer – A Fatal Clean-out…An Engineer´s Role in Safety

John R. Smitherman

A devastating, fatal accident was one operator’s powerful introduction to the idea that engineers should play a more active role in creating a safe workplace. An operator was performing a “routine field operation” by using foam-air to clean out a partially depleted horizontal well in the Permian Basin. Everything seemed normal to the experienced,
but not technically trained, crew when they stopped circulating to allow the rig crew to strip pipe into the hole. Mere minutes later a downhole explosion sent a shockwave to the surface that destroyed wellhead equipment and ended the life of a young rig hand.
What went wrong?
This presentation explores our investigation into that question as it related to this particular job. As the ever expanding inventory of horizontal wells across the globe ages, well intervention after significant depletion will more often necessitate the use of low density fluids to establish and maintain circulation. Without employing the lessons learned here, it is certain that this incident will be repeated.
Besides actionable results for the audience to use on other such clean-outs, we will present what this author realized to be an even more important finding…the engineer’s responsibility in creating a safe field workplace.
Key Takeaway: We need engineers to utilize their special knowledge to actively seek out and eliminate dangers in the workplace, especially in field procedures and facility design.

John Smitherman, now President of Stoneman Consulting, LLC, served in many roles during his 38+ year career at an operating company. He holds a B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked as an engineer in production and reservoir, manager in operations and drilling, and officer with responsibilities including all operational aspects of the business. Mr.Smitherman was closely associated with the investigation chronicled in this presentation which employed experts from several fields and afforded him tragic, but important insight. This SPE program affords an opportunity to inform others so that similar tragedies can be avoided.

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