CHEVRON PREPARES TO DRILL NIGERIA RELIEF WELL

Filed in ENERGY by on January 19, 2012

Chevron prepares to drill Nigeria relief well
January 19, 2012 by Stanley Opara with agency report

Chevron is mobilising equipment to drill a relief well at a still-burning rig off Nigeria after efforts to shut in the well have failed so far, the company said Tuesday.

An “extensive” search for two missing contractors is continuing as the flaming KS Endeavor jack-up rig has “partially collapsed”, upstreamonlineonline.com quoted the company as saying.

Chevron has no estimate for how long the rig would continue to burn or how long it would take to drill the relief well with the Transocean jack-up GSF Baltic.

“Initial indications point to the possible failure of surface equipment during drilling operations that led to a loss of well control,” Chevron said in a statement.

“Chevron is deploying additional drilling experts and well control specialists to Nigeria to assist with well control efforts and the relief drilling process.”

The Funiwa field well is about six miles offshore and was drilling in about 40 feet of water, Chevron said. The supermajor has a 40 per cent stake in the project while the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has the remainder.

The two workers still missing are contractors with Fode Drilling Nigeria, the contractor confirmed on its website.

“Efforts are being made to suppress and extinguish the fire,” the statement said, adding that, “We are working with priority on the search and rescue of the missing personnel.”

With152 crew members back onshore, two workers were hospitalised for “minor” burns, while others are being held for observation, Chevron said in its statement.

Spokesman Kurt Glaubitz did not immediately have details available about the timeframe of drilling or depth reached, but said a blowout preventer had been installed.

He did not have details on potential gas flow rates, particularly as the well was still evaluating the formation.

The company is still investigating a small sheen nearby of roughly 13 barrels, the statement said.

According to Transocean’s latest fleet-status report, the GSF Baltic high-spec jack-up is also in Nigeria and has been on an ExxonMobil contract since 2010.

A flyover is currently taking place above a Chevron-chartered rig which is understood to still be ablaze following an apparent blowout off Nigeria on Monday.

The search continues for two rig workers, whom Upstreamonline understands are from France and India, missing since the jack-up KS Endeavor was engulfed in flames on the Funiwa field in Block 86.

Nigerian officials are confident that there is little in the way of pollution from the blaze, dramatic pictures of which have been released by Chevron and appear to show the unit slipping into the sea.

Operations manager at the Nigeria-based joint owner of the rig, Fode, Ian Laidlaw told Upstream that the two missing rig personnel have yet to be found.

Laidlaw said, “We are still performing search and rescue operations as of now. We have not found [them] of yet.

“Nobody has actually seen the people coming off the rig. We did actually take people out of the water coming off the rig. We do not know if the [two missing] people have been caught up with the flash when it ignited and they [were] intoxicated by the smoke. We cannot say.”

The inferno engulfed the rig early on Monday morning, swiftly torching the adjacent United States-owned liftboat Mako from which all 27 crew escaped. Houston-based vessel owner Hercules Offshore has already said the boat is most likely a total constructive loss.

When asked if the blaze had been extinguished, Laidlaw responded: “Oh no, the fire is not out.” [Chevron] has to drill a relief well.”

Chevron said on Tuesday that it had hired the Transocean jack-up GSF Baltic to drill a relief well in an effort to control the blaze and any possible pollution.

“The rig and everything now is Chevron’s responsibility,” Laidlaw continued. “My company’s responsibility is the personnel onboard, and Chevron can look after the installation. They’ve got the boats, the water monitors and the search and rescue operation going on now.”

Laidlaw was not aware of any pollution, continuing: “Right from the very beginning it was gas coming out. There was no oil coming out. There might be smoke.”

Although there has yet to be confirmation of what caused the blaze, a blowout appears likely, with Chevron saying on Tuesday: “Initial indications point to the possible failure of surface equipment during drilling operations that led to a loss of well control.”

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