What we know about the March 8 kick. This hasn’t gotten much coverage elsewhere, and few of the well diagrams makes it clear that there was parallel hole with a bunch of drill pipe in it. FWIW, there is at least one You Tube vid where a geologist argues that drilling the sidetrack well further weakened the formation and led to later problems.
What follows are excerpts from the BOEMRE report, the Chief Counsel report, and the BP report. The event was not covered in the National Academies report, the National Commission report, or the Transocean report. I’ve moved the end/foot notes in line. References marked “report” and “testimony” are publicly available. References marked “Internal” and “interview” are not, along with the BP Drilling Ops manual.
I’d be interested in people’s comments.
From the BOEMRE report
A. Kicks and Stuck Drill Pipe
BP company records and testimony from rig personnel establish that at least three well control events and multiple kicks occurred during drilling and temporary abandonment operations at the Macondo well. The first well control event occurred on October 26, 2009, when the well was being drilled by Transocean’s Marianas rig. The second well control event occurred on March 8, 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon had replaced the Marianas and resulted in a stuck drill pipe.
It took the crew at least 30 minutes to detect the March 8 kick.[BP Internal] This delay raised significant concerns among BP personnel overseeing the operation about the ability of personnel on the Deepwater Horizon to promptly detect kicks and take appropriate well control actions.
In a post‐blowout interview, John Guide, a BP wells team leader, stated that, at the time (March 2010) he was concerned that the Deepwater Horizon team had become “too comfortable” with itself because of its good track record for successfully drilling difficult wells, and that its members missed potential indications of problems during the March 8 event that they should have caught.[BP Internal]
Other individuals responsible for operations at Macondo expressed concern about the events of March 8
* David Sims, BP drilling and completions operations manager, expressed concern about the BP well site leaders’ well control abilities in an email written following the March 8 kick. He stated that the well site leaders “are not well control experts. They are fantastic drillers – the best in the SPU [BP drilling unit], if not the industry. However, they do not circulate out kicks for a living, especially 1200 feet off bottom with many unknowns.” [BP Internal]
* Mark Hafle told BP investigators in a post‐blowout interview that he believed some of the Sperry‐Sun mudloggers did not understand how to monitor the well properly, and that the Sperry‐Sun personnel were stretched too thin and did not have enough qualified mudloggers. [BP Internal]
Notwithstanding the high level of concern about the March 8 kick and the rig crew’s response to the kick, BP did not conduct the type of investigation of the incident required by BP’s own policies. BP’s drilling and well operations procedures require a well control incident report to be completed and documented in BP’s internal reporting system [BP Drilling Ops Manual] and provide that such incidents should be investigated to determine root causes and to identify ways to prevent reoccurrence. [ibid.] The Panel found no evidence that BP documented the March well control event in its internal tracking system or that it conducted a post‐ incident investigation to determine the root cause of the delayed kick detection.
Instead of conducting a formal investigation, Guide had discussions with the BP well site leaders and the Transocean rig leaders about the event and the drilling crew’s response. Guide told BP investigators in a post‐blowout interview that he believed members of the rig crew understood their responsibilities and admitted to him that they “had screwed up” by not catching the kick. Guide also talked to the Sperry‐Sun mudloggers about the detection of flow. [BP Internal]
BP’s in‐house group of geological experts, the “Totally Integrated Geological and Engineering Response team” (the “TIGER team”), conducted an analysis of the March 8 kick. This was not the type of incident investigation required by the DWOP, but rather a study of the pore pressure and other geological conditions encountered in the well. In an email “re‐evaluating how we manage real time pore pressure detection for Macondo type wells,” a BP geologist stated that “we need to have PP [pore pressure] conversations as soon as ANY indicator shows a change in PP” and we “need to be prepared to have some false alarms and not be afraid of it.” [BP Internal] He also noted:
Better lines of communication, both amongst the rig subsurface and drilling personnel, and with Houston office need to be reestablished. Preceding each well control event, subtle indicators of pore pressure increase were either not recognized, or not discussed amongst the greater group. It is the responsibility of the mudloggers and well‐site PP/FG personnel to openly communicate with the well‐site geologist. [BP Internal]
This analysis by the TIGER team, which was focused on geological conditions in the Macondo well, was not intended to address the specific ways in which the rig crew should monitor the well. Morel, Hafle and Cocales presented a document to the TIGER team on March 18 that addressed some of the events of March 8, but this document did not include a discussion of any measures to be implemented to ensure that the rig crew could detect kicks more quickly and effectively. [BP Internal] The Panel found no evidence that Morel, Hafle, and Cocales presented information related to the March 8 kick detection problems to anyone else involved in operations at Macondo.
After the March 8 incident, BP had to abandon the wellbore (leaving behind a number of costly drilling tools) and perform a bypass to continue drilling the well. [BP Internal] Responding to the kick and conducting the bypass operation resulted in additional cost and timing delay for the Macondo well.
Except for one person, the rig personnel involved in kick detection and response on March 8, including a mudlogger, drillers, assistant drillers, a senior toolpusher, and toolpushers, were the same individuals on duty on April 20 when the blowout occurred. [Report Footnote: One of the mudloggers on duty on April 20 was not involved in the March 8 kick. EB note: this was probably the junior mudlogger whose concerns about the effect of offloading mud on her ability to monitor was not followed up on by her superior.]
From The Chief Counsel Report
Reviews conducted in late 2007 and early 2008 similarly showed that “the quality of monitoring, detection, and reaction to downhole hazards during drilling operations” was “variable.” [BP Internal] In response, BP planned to develop a program to facilitate Efficient Reservoir Access, the “ERA Advisor.” This ambitious program would monitor data in real time onshore, generate expert and automated advice in response to that data, and use new software and sensors to track and diagnose the data. [BP Internal, Zhangi interview] The program’s goal was to “ensure the right information is in the right place at the right time.” [BP Internal] It would focus, however, on monitoring data during the drilling of the well (not end-of-well activities). [BP Internal] BP’s Extended Leadership Team developed and endorsed the ERA in 2009; initial pilot testing of the first stage of the system was to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010. [BP Internal]
Even before planning its ERA program, BP contracted Sperry-Sun to relay rig data to its Houston offices. But despite recognizing the risks associated with poor well monitoring and the usefulness of onshore assistance, BP did not monitor this data for well control purposes. Even though each of its working rigs had an operations room with dedicated Sperry-Sun data displays, [O’Bryan, Cocales testimony] BP typically only used these rooms for meetings and the data were “not ever monitored.” [Cocales testimony] Thus, before BP implemented its ERA Advisor system, it failed to take the interim step of ensuring that someone onshore was monitoring the data systems it already had in place.
This is surprising in light of the fact that BP was particularly concerned about well monitoring at Macondo. Less than two months before the blowout, on March 8, 2010, the Macondo well took a kick. [BP Internal] The kick occurred while the rig was drilling. [BP Internal] The Transocean drill crew and Sperry Drilling mudlogger–indeed, the very same Revette, Curtis, Clark, and Keith–observed a gain in flow-out, a slow gain in the pits, a decrease in equivalent circulating density (ECD), and an increase in gas content. [BP, Sperry, Halliburton Internal] The drill crew stopped the pumps, performed a flow check, and shut in the well. [BP Internal, Seraile interview] The situation soon went “from bad to worse” [BP Internal] There were “[m]ajor problems on the well”: [Guide interview] The pipe was stuck. BP ultimately had to sever the pipe and sidetrack the well. [BP Internal]
After the event, BP involved its in-house Totally Integrated Geological and Engineering Resource team TIGER tto conduct an engineering analysis, and (on March 18) distributed a “lessons learned” document to its Gulf of Mexico drilling and completions personnel. [BP Report] BP recommended that its personnel “evaluate the entire suite of drilling parameters that may be indicative of a shift in pore-pressure” (including gas, flow-out, and flow checks), “ensure that we are monitoring all relevant [pore pressure] trend data,” have [pore pressure] conversations as soon as ANY indicator shows a change, and “be prepared to have some false alarms and not be afraid of it.” [BP Internal] The “lessons learned” document also specified that “[b]etter lines of communication, both amongst the rig subsurface and drilling personnel, and with Houston office needs to be reestablished. Preceding each well control event, subtle indicators of pore pressure increase were either not recognized, or not discussed amongst the greater group.” [BP Internal]
In addition, BP wells team leader initiated several conversations to address the rig’s response to the kick, which he thought was “slow and needed improvement.” [BP Report. Note in Chief Counsel Report: "Although BP personnel deemed the drill crew’s response inadequate, Transocean did not. Transocean legal team interview] Guide specifically instructed the BP well site leaders to “up their game.” [Guide interview] He spoke with Transocean and Sperry Drilling personnel about “tighten[ing] up wellbore monitoring.”
The goal of Guide’s conversations and of the TIGER teams involvement was to maintain heightened attentiveness “for the remainder of the Macondo well,” [BP Internal] up to the point when the Horizon unlatched its BOP and left. [BP Internal] Evidently, the team fell short of that goal. As monitoring lasted all the way up until, apparently, the negative pressure test. [Guide interview] This is likely because BP’s focus, once again, was on monitoring data during the drilling of the well (not end-of-well activities). [BP Internal]
From The BP Report
After running and cementing the 16 in. casing, the drilling of the 14 3/4 in. x 16 in. hole section commenced on March 7, 2010. On March 8, 2010, a well control event occurred that resulted in the drill pipe becoming stuck. The drill pipe could not be freed, and the lower part of the wellbore was abandoned.
Well control event at 13,305 ft. Pipe stuck; severed pipe at 12,146 ft.
March 8, 2010, Macondo Well Control Event
On March 8, 2010, while drilling the Macondo well, a kick (i.e., initiation of reservoir fluids into the wellbore due to an underbalanced condition) occurred while drilling at a depth of 13,250 ft. Certain key individuals who were present during the April 20, 2010, accident were also on tour during the March 8, 2010, well control event. During the March 8, 2010, event, the influx from the reservoir went unnoticed for approximately 33 minutes, and a total gain of 35 bbls to 40 bbls was brought into the well before shutting in the well with the lower annular preventer. The hole section was lost because the drill pipe became stuck.
In addition to the pit gain indication, the pressure-while-drilling response from the downhole logging-while-drilling tools showed a distinct drop in equivalent circulating density from 12.41 ppg to 12.32 ppg, commencing within 2 minutes of drilling into the sand that caused the kick.
The BP Macondo well team conducted an engineering analysis of the kick that indicated a
33-minute response time and that there were indications of flow. A ‘lessons learned’ document containing the analysis and recommendations was distributed among the BP Gulf of Mexico Drilling and Completions organization. The wells team leader indicated that Transocean and BP leaders (aboard the rig) were given verbal feedback about the handling of the event.
In an interview with the investigation team, the wells team leader indicated that the response time reported in the engineering analysis was deemed to be slow and needed improvement. The investigation team found no evidence that Transocean took any documented, corrective actions with the rig crew either to acknowledge or address the response time recorded in the March 8, 2010, event. Transocean completed a Well Control Event Report as required by policy stated in their well control handbook. This event report did not list findings and stated that changes made to prevent reoccurrence of such an event were “still under review.”