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OSHA should extend PSM standard to onshore drilling, CSB says in new report

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Oklahoma fire
Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — OSHA should apply its Process Safety Management standard to the drilling of onshore oil and gas wells, or – if not – customize it to oil and gas drilling operations or develop a new standard, the Chemical Safety Board recommends in its final report on a deadly January 2018 gas well blowout and rig fire in Oklahoma.

The recommendation is among 19 made by CSB in the 158-page report, released June 12 and directed at OSHA, the American Petroleum Institute, the state of Oklahoma, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, two drilling companies involved in overseeing the site and drilling product designers.

CSB called the deaths of five workers at the Pryor Trust well in Pittsburg County a “needless catastrophe” and determined that the site suffered from “a lack of regulations governing onshore drilling safety as well as shortcomings in safety management systems as well as industry standards.”

Agency investigators found that two recommended protective barriers in place as an industry standard – hydrostatic pressure in the well, produced by drilling mud, and human detection of gas flowing into or expanding in the well and activation of the rig’s blowout preventer – both failed. The barriers are in place, according to CSB, to stop a blowout.

CSB also concluded that the drilling contractor failed to maintain an effective alarm system. The data system is equipped with a gain/loss measurement to alert the driller of gas influx or mud loss. A gain/loss alarm on the system should have been set at plus-minus five barrels. CSB said in its report that the “entire alarm system had been turned off … so no audio or visual alarm activated” despite a 14-barrel gain.

 

“Our investigation found significant lapses in good safety practices at this site,” CSB interim Executive Authority Kristen Kulinowski said in the press release. “For over 14 hours, there was a dangerous condition building at this well.”

CSB called on the American Petroleum Institute to make five safety-related adjustments to its guidelines – including a recommended practice on alarm management and convening an industrywide group to establish widespread implementation of automatic safety instrumented systems to circumvent the failure of operational barriers.

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