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2017 SPPE annual report cover

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The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a principal federal statistical agency, entered an interagency agreement with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in 2013, and subsequently signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016 to implement and operate the SafeOCS program. The SafeOCS program is a resource for industry members to share key observations and lessons from equipment and safety-related events. Its objective is to identify potential high-consequence risks from aggregated, industry-wide data; and share findings to mitigate risks. BTS first began collecting data on equipment component failures as required by BSEE’s Well Subpart H – Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems Final Rule in December 2016. This report is based on data collected in 2017.

The 2017 annual report: Oil and Gas Production Safety System Failures, produced by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), summarizes safety and pollution prevention equipment (SPPE) failures on production well facilities in the outer continental shelf (OCS), with reports received from one region, the Gulf of Mexico, during this reporting period. It includes an analysis of equipment component failures and other key information such as failure causes, operational impacts, and data quality.

SPPEs are valves and actuators designed to stop the flow of oil, gas, and water from wells for safety, pollution prevention, maintenance, or other operational reasons. They will automatically close when triggered by the safety system due to an operation outside of prescribed limits, the presence of gas or fire detected on the platform. The majority of the reported failures were detected during required periodic testing, which is performed to find and remove latent failures.

In 2017, the first full year of mandated SPPE reporting, 9 out of 59 production operators in the Gulf of Mexico reported 112 failures. The remaining 50 operators did not report any failures during this time period. The 9 reporting operators represent 15 percent of the total operators, 35 percent of active wells, and 40 percent of total oil production from the Gulf of Mexico. None of the reported SPPE events were associated with a Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) incident.

Key findings icon    Key Findings

  • 98 out of 6116 active wells in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017 reported an SPPE failure. The reported failures involved less than 1.0 percent of the SPPE in use on the Gulf of Mexico OCS.
  • Two of the 9 reporting operators accounted for 51 percent of the failure reports, had leases on less than 20 percent of active wells, and represented less than 5 percent of total oil production from the Gulf of Mexico OCS.
  • All the 112 reported failures except four were located on surface wells. The remaining four which were all BSDVs were on subsea trees.
  • The majority of the SPPE failures (85.7 percent) were categorized as internal leakage, which pose minimal risk—based on the extent of degradation of installed well safety systems and potential consequence to personnel and the environment—than other types of failures such as external leaks and failure to close.
  • SSV failures account for 83 percent of all reported failures. The majority of the SSV failures were internal leakage (88.0 percent) and only 6.5 percent failed to close which posed a higher potential risk but did not lead to an HSE event.
  • Subsurface safety valves (SCSSV, SSCSV) accounted for 13.4 percent of the reported failures.
  • There were 12 failures where the valve failed to close: six SSVs located on the platform, and six subsurface safety valves located away from the platform. One of the failures occurred during a process upset, but it did not lead to an HSE event and the SSV was able to be repaired on location. The remaining 11 failures were found during testing, which helps to ensure that the valve will function if it is needed.
  • Of the 8 failure reports indicating the presence of H2S, all 8 wells were associated with SSV failures.
  • Of the 7 failure reports indicating the presence of CO2, 5 were associated with SSV failures and 2 with SCSSV failures.
  • Most of the equipment failures (96.4 percent) were detected through leakage testing.
  • The most reported causes of component failures were wear and tear (74.1 percent) and scale buildup (7.1 percent).
  • Over 80 percent of the failures occurred on wells producing less than 500 BOE/day, with over half of those producing greater than 100 BOE/day. Only about 1.0 percent of the failures were associated with wells producing more than 10,000 BOE/day (high producers).
  • The most common reported failed SPPE component was the gate and seat degradation in SSVs.
  • Sand, scale, and corrosive environment were the most frequently reported naturally occurring well fluid conditions associated with SPPE failures.

Send email icon  SafeOCS@dot.gov Phone icon  1-844-OCS-FRST (1-844-627-3778) Location icon  SafeOCS, BTS-USDOT, P.O. Box 23295, Washington, DC 20026-3295