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Blowouts in the Energy Industry

In well drilling activities, a blowout is an uncontrolled flow of water, oil, and gas from a well. An underground blowout is the uncontrolled flow of these resources into a low-pressure subsurface zone.

Blowouts occur when pressure control systems fail. They’re not solely caused by well drilling operations. Blowouts are common in high-pressure reservoirs where the pressure isn’t balanced properly, such as through the gravity of drilling mud. This can result in a sudden surge of pressure. When the highly pressurised formation fluids flow into low-pressure formations, a blowout occurs.

Key fact: The 2010 Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry

There are three types of blowouts: surface, underwater, and underground. Blowouts present extreme safety hazards, the most catastrophic being an explosion.

The invention of the blowout preventer (BOP) has dramatically reduced the number of blowouts in modern day oil and gas production. This acts like a valve that can shut off the oil well and prevent any formation fluid from gushing through the surface.

Benefits of BOPs

  • Seals the oil well

  • Controls well kicks and blowouts

  • Maintains pressure balance in reservoirs

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