Beneath the crisscrossing latticework of an oil derrick, the threat of catastrophic well failure always looms. Perhaps the most feared of all oilfield accidents is the unanticipated well blowout, which can have catastrophic, deadly consequences.
What is a blowout?
A blowout occurs when a sudden spike in well pressure shoots the well’s contents from ground-level. Drilling wells sustain pressure from the earth’s crust and also use internal pressure to keep fluids circulating. However, disruptions can reverse the flow of well contents and drive them back to the earth’s surface with extreme force.
How do blowouts occur? Can they be stopped?
Well blowouts can occur from natural or manmade conditions, though the very unpredictability of blowouts makes them difficult to stop.
Unforeseen geologic conditions cause well blowouts. Sometimes the drilling taps into a pressurized reservoir that kicks well contents back up to the surface. “Drilling mud,” pumped down the well to create pressure, sometimes creates too much pressure or interacts with geologic substances, launching pressurized sediment, fluids, and gases back up the drillstring.
Manmade drilling conditions such as faulty equipment or well mismanagement also cause blowouts. Using the wrong drilling mud mixture can cause clay blockages that over-pressurize the well. Other human errors contribute to blowouts as well. A dozen contractors may participate simultaneously on a single drilling rig, and lack of oversight often leads to safety issues. To prevent blowouts, drill teams primarily rely on specific equipment.
The notable mechanism for stopping blowouts is the “blowout preventer” (BOP), a large set of valves placed beneath the derrick floor. BOPs save lives. However, a BOP must be closed in order to work, and well blowouts happen unexpectedly. BOPs also have pressure limits and have failed in the past.
How do blowouts hurt workers?
Blowouts are extremely dangerous, often unleashing multiple volatile forces.
The sudden release of pressure at the surface can shoot equipment parts, snap heavy cables, and destabilize the derrick. Bystanders can sustain blunt force trauma, lacerations, amputation, and other concussive injuries.
Blowouts also release flammable hydrocarbons that can ignite from sparks or friction, fueling explosions and rig fires that cause burn injuries. Blowouts can even tapped toxic gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide – all of which can incapacitate or even kill when inhaled.
When wells blow, they tend to blow big, and they cause oilfield accident fatalities every year. Unfortunately, workers caught in the crosshairs of a well blowout may sustain catastrophic injuries or even be killed.
What can workers do for compensation?
Although oil and gas companies may offer worker’s compensation, that may not cover future expenses for lifelong injuries. That’s why oil and gas workers need someone on their side.
If you have been injured or your loved one was killed in an oilfield accident, the Wyatt Law Firm hears you. Our oilfield accident attorneys have years of experience litigating these types of cases, and we have a formidable record of courtroom success.
We fight to get real results for real people.
Let us fight for you.
Explore our legal blog and our website for more information on oilfield accidents and catastrophic injuries.