Athens Group White Paper: 20kPSI BOP: Preparing Your Operational Framework

Athens Group explores potential impact of 20kPSI BOPs on your operational framework so you can prepare for success.

In January, we explored the limitations of regulatory compliance and the importance of a well-designed Well Control Equipment (WCE) operational framework to ensure a safe and effective drilling operation. As the industry continues to push operational boundaries and new technologies are introduced, existing industry and regulatory guidance becomes even more limited and additional adjustments to your WCE operational framework may become necessary. The introduction of 20kPSI BOPs is an example of this.

As BOP original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) prepare to deliver the first-ever blow out preventers rated to sustain pressures of 20,000 pounds per square inch, there is a notion that these BOPs are “the same thing, just bigger.” While this is technically a correct statement, it underestimates the important implications of this new technology with respect to design, manufacturing, integration, testing, operation, and maintenance stages in the BOP lifecycle.

For example, a higher pressure rating means thicker bodies and bigger rams, and this increase in size also means an increase in weight. To mitigate this additional weight, material characteristics and design parameters need to be evaluated, which may lead to changes in material composition as well as welding, assembly, and QA/QC processes implemented by the OEM. The additional size and weight also impacts the BOP Control System, notably in the need for high-pressure (5kPSI) hydraulic control lines, which may lead to an increase in control system pressure, higher flow rate, additional sensors, and increased volumetric capacity requirements. Additional impacts can be expected on emergency systems such as Emergency Disconnect Sequences (EDS), Autoshear, Deadman, Acoustic Controls, and Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) interface.

The impact of the size and weight increase extends beyond the design of the BOP itself. Other well control equipment components (Choke Manifold, Telescopic Joint, Marine Riser, Diverter) as well as supporting systems such as transporters (BOP trolleys), cranes, tensioners, riser recoil, and testing equipment (test stump, test joints, test pumps and manifolds) may be affected. The size and weight increase may also require procedural adjustments to your Preventive Maintenance Inspection and Test Program (PMITP), and Critical Spare Inventory Management (CSIM). Due to the increase in pressure, integrity testing and maintenance activities become riskier, which will impact your Permit To Work (PTW) and Job Safety Assessment (JSA) programs.

Beyond the WCE system, the changes in design, size, and weight will impact all drilling operations related to BOPs, including, but not limited to:

• Riser analysis studies and operation of tensioner systems
• Procedures for deploying and retrieving the BOP
• Station keeping Well Specific Operating Guidelines (WSOG, i.e., “watch circles”)
• Emergency protocols, including well shut-in, ROV operations, and unplanned disconnects
• Contingency plans, including support vessels and capping stacks

Evaluating and understanding the impact of all these changes on your WCE operational framework requires modifications to the way you specify, acquire, and operate the WCE system. Given the fact that there is no 20kPSI BOP operational history from which to derive lessons learned and best practices, the need to comprehensively evaluate the integration of this new equipment with the drilling asset becomes an imperative.

If you are considering the use of 20kPSI BOPs for future drilling campaigns, you must consider adjusting your well control equipment operational framework to establish a sustainable approach that can help give you the confidence that the drilling operation ahead will meet your safety and operational performance goals. This requires preemptive initiative throughout the equipment lifecycle, not reactive compliance. We recommend that you evaluate the scope of your WCE operational framework to include:

• Design Stage, through conceptual design, requirement validation and risk assessment
• Manufacturing Stage, through vendor process assessments, hold/monitoring points, and
comprehensive FAT witnessing
• Integration Stage, through installation, commissioning, system integration, and acceptance
• Operation Stage, through PMITP, CSIM, Riser Analysis, WSOG, and condition monitoring

White paper available mid-March 2015

To request the new Athens Group white paper on “20kPSI BOP: Preparing Your Operational Framework,” please send a request via our Contact Us Page.  If you have any questions, please call Marcella Pena at 281-921-8989 Ext. 151 or email

Copyright 2015 Athens Group. All Rights Reserved.

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