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How Oil Rig Blowouts Occur

When an offshore oil rig is being drilled, serious problems can occur if pressure is not properly monitored, leading to pressure changes that can ultimately result in the rapid flowing of combustible hydrocarbons. If this flow is not monitored or stopped in a timely fashion, it can ignite and cause a blowout. It has been said that blowouts are the most tragic and expensive incidents in the upstream petroleum industry. They not only endanger the lives of those around the well, they can also pose a monumental threat to the environment.

Well blowouts can occur at any point, such as the following:

  • Drilling
  • Well Testing
  • Well Completion
  • Production
  • Workover Activity

The oil and gas extracted in today's industry was first created and sealed under the earth's surface in a time period that spanned over millions of years. The formation of these hydrocarbon products requires enormous pressure. So, when extracting oil or gas through drilling, the pressure behind these formations must be considered. There are several key items that must be in place to handle this pressure and avoid blowouts while safely extracting the oil or gas. Workers must take steps such as properly using surface cement and ensuring that adequate mud weight is being used to control the well in order to ensure a safe drilling process. Beyond that, the Blowout Preventer (BOP) needs to receive constant tests with regular drills conducted.

Different Types of Dangerous Blowouts

  • Surface Blowouts: In some cases, the blowout can result in the ejection of the drill string completely out of the well, which could result in an output of oil, sand, mud, rocks, natural gas, and more. The force behind this blowout is often enough to not only damage the vessel, but also cause significant injuries to the crewmembers who are aboard the rig. In addition, surface blowouts can often be set ablaze; for example, rocks ejected during the process could spark or friction could generate heat. This ignition will not only harm crew, but will also be difficult to extinguish, burning for long periods.

  • Subsea Blowouts: Blowouts that occur in subsea wells are particularly dangerous because they occur on the seabed; these wells can range from 10 to 8,000 feet. One of the main complications of a subsea blowout is the remoteness of the wellness. One infamous example—and the deepest blowout of this nature—is the Deepwater Horizon blowout from 2010, which occurred at 5,000 feet.

  • Underground Blowouts: Blowouts that occur underground are complex and occur when fluids from zones of higher pressure begin to flow uncontrolled to zone with lower pressures. Often, this is from deep zones to more shallow ones. Adequate safety measures must be constantly observed while drilling because of the risk of a blowout. The damage to the workers involved and the environment around the drill site is so substantial that blowout prevention should always be a priority.

If a blowout occurs through negligence, the safety of the entire crew could be in jeopardy, in addition to the surrounding wildlife. If you have been injured during a blowout on an oil rig, our attorneys can review the details of your situation and determine what options are available to you. Having represented 27 crewmembers of the Deepwater Horizon, our firm has the experience and the knowledge to prosecute even the most catastrophic oil rig explosions. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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