Drilling Safety

At Shell, safety is more than just a word and more than just a priority. Safety drives our actions in our daily activities from exploration through production. Our safety record is built on an operating culture that touches everything we do. Our commitment to Goal Zero means we are always working to improve.

  • Strict Standards - While all Shell onshore exploration and production operations comply with federal, state, and provincial regulations, in many cases our design criteria and operating procedures exceed those standards. We believe our practices are among the most comprehensive in the industry. Before beginning a new project, we develop a report identifying and addressing the health, safety, security, and environmental risks for our operation.
  • Multiple Barriers - To minimise or eliminate risks in our designs, we use physical barriers including seals, cement casing, blowout preventers, and monitoring equipment. We also use operational barriers such as flow meters, monitor well conditions, and respond to and minimise the impact if a problem should occur.
  • Proven Methods - Our operating methods combine experience and state-of-the-art technology to maximize safety and efficiency. Employees and contractors are trained in well safety and well control, and all personnel have the authority -- and are expected -- to stop any activity they deem unsafe.
  • Monitoring - Shell has redundant systems to closely monitor flow and pressures within the wellbore. In addition to onsite monitoring, we have operational command centers that give us the capability to observe aspects of our drilling operations remotely. Our employees and contractors are trained to review, detect, and prevent or mitigate abnormal conditions if they occur.

Before We Drill

Before we even begin to drill, we use a set of practices, collectively called a “safety case,” that draws on our experience and expertise to identify and address the inherent risks in exploration and production. This industry best practice helps to confirm:

  • Health, safety, and environmental issues are clearly identified and assessed,
  • All regulatory and Shell global requirements are met,
  • Risks have been removed or mitigated according to a structured, systematic Shell process,
  • Critical safety equipment and procedures are identified to manage remaining risks,
  • A comprehensive environmental management plan has been developed,
  • Social, health, and environment benefits and opportunities are identified, and
  • Personnel roles and responsibilities are indicated.

Practicing What We Preach

Our facilities have been designed with safety in mind. As a further precaution, we conduct ongoing safety training in first aid, rescue, incident command, fire response, and emergency response to make sure personnel on site are well prepared to protect both public safety and the environment.

We run frequent internal and first responder safety drills to practice our response and help others understand our safety procedures and communication processes. The following drills are performed depending on the area and requirements:

  • ERP (Emergency Response Plan)
  • MER (Medical Emergency Response)
  • Security
  • Rescue from Heights
  • Well Control
  • Abandon Location
  • Spill Response

Fire response is integrated with the abandonment of location drills. Well control drills are simulated to time and test well control response. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) response drills are performed where H2S is a potential risk to ensure safe evacuation of all personnel from the drilling site and surrounding area.

View life cycle of an onshore well

Well Design

Onshore Oil and Natural Gas Work Area

Shell requires a multiple-layer barrier system in its well designs to reduce risks.

We choose the steel pipe (casing) for each well based on the specific characteristics of the formation. We use cement between each layer of casing; this holds the casing in place and prevents fluids or gas from flowing into the wellbore or between the pipe and the sides of the hole. Additionally, our wellheads have mechanical seals and locks to prevent gas or fluids from moving up the hole along the outside of the casing.

We pressure test barriers within a well, including casing, wellhead, and cement. If a pressure or integrity test does not meet Shell’s standards, we stop and make the appropriate repairs in order to achieve strong barrier integrity. We do not complete wells unless wellbore integrity has been pressure tested and monitored.

Graphic of a blow out preventer with reference numbers labelling its parts.

The Blowout Preventer

Shell often goes beyond regulatory requirements in terms of safety regarding blowout prevention.

The blowout preventer (BOP) is critical safety equipment featuring a configuration of redundant sealing components, designed to close off and secure a well in the event of a loss of pressure control, commonly referred to as a “blowout.” It is vital that all components of the blowout preventer function as designed and intended – at that crucial moment. At Shell, BOPs undergo internal testing requirements in addition to the testing required by regulatory agencies. Should our testing indicate any abnormality in any part of the blowout preventer, drilling operations are suspended, and the well is secured until the issue is corrected.

Every 14 to 21 days during the onshore drilling process, Shell orders a function and pressure test on the BOP. Before drilling further beyond a casing point and beginning a new section, the BOP is again tested for integrity.

  1. Annular - Utilizes a donut-shaped rubber element to seal around a variety of pipe sizes to shut in the well when necessary, trapping pressure and wellbore fluids
  2. Pipe Ram - A high-pressure sealing device that closes around one or a range of pipe sizes to shut in the well
  3. Blind Ram - A sealing device that is used to shut in the well in the absence of pipe in the hole. It blankets the top of the well, trapping pressure and wellbore fluids
  4. Kill Line - If the drill pipe becomes inaccessible, drilling mud is pumped into the well here to re-establish well control
  5. Choke Line - When choking the manifold to reduce the pressure to atmospheric level, the pressurized fluid from the well will flow out of here
  6. Pipe Ram - (see above)
  7. Wellhead - Supports all casing and tubing in the well and connects to the blowout preventer

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