(733h) Voluntary Oil Well Ignition As a Blowout Response: Analysis of Factors Influencing Viability

Hasan, A. R., Texas A&M University
Siddhamshetty, P., Texas A&M Energy Institute, Texas A&M University
Mannan, M. S., Texas A&M University
Xu, B., Texas A&M University
Ahammad, M., Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center
While most off-shore drilling use conventional steel rigs, for large reservoirs in shallow waters, artificial islands make an attractive alternative for offshore drilling because it offers more space, lower environmental impact, greater personnel safety, and lower cost. Drilling from an off-shore island may allow voluntary ignition as a blowout response if the oil contains sufficient gas. For voluntary ignition to be a viable blowout response, wellhead burning – that depends on a number of factors – needs to be nearly 100% efficient.

In this work, we investigate wellhead burning as a planned response to oilwell blowouts. The work presents a case study of proposed wellhead burning of 880 GOR, 27o API oil, should a blowout occur. The work takes into account some of the concerns regarding possible significant oil spill on Beaufort Sea as a result of incomplete combustion of the blowout effluent.

Burning of two-phase mixtures of oil and gas is a complex phenomenon that depends on the fraction of gas in the mixture, percentage of oil being entrained as liquid droplets in the gas stream, the size of the droplets, their residence time in the flame, among other parameters. Available models and correlations for the influence of these parameters on burning efficiency are examined in view of their relevance to wellhead burning.

This work will demonstrate that for some oil wells with high enough GOR, wellhead burning could be efficient enough for to be a reasonable response to a well blowout. In the studied case, a GOR of 880 combined with high total flowrate of the mixture, strongly implies nearly complete combustion of the well effluent during a blowout. The case study helped us formulate an algorithm to examine whether any particular well could be a possible candidate for wellhead burning as a planned response to a blowout. The approach suggests determining a well’s worst case discharge (WCD), estimating fluid velocities at well exit, estimating adiabatic flame temperature, and performing an energy balance to determine if all oil drops will evaporate.