The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has published proposed rules for governing annular pressures in Prudhoe Bay development wells and set May 27 as a tentative hearing date. Annular pressures were determined as the cause of an Aug. 16 explosion at well A-22 at Prudhoe which seriously injured a worker.
The commission held a hearing in November on whether or not it should issue such rules.
Prudhoe Bay operator BP Exploration (Alaska) and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association told the commission that changes have been made in operating procedures and training following the A-22 explosion, and both said no new regulations are needed.
The commission said Jan. 16 that it had decided that a rule addressing annular pressure management in Prudhoe Bay field development wells is appropriate to protect worker safety. That rule, the commission said, would require BP to keep the commission informed about wells with pressure communication or leaks, and to get permission from the commission for the continued operation of such wells.
Rules proposed April 16 include: daily monitoring of Prudhoe Bay wells to detect sustained pressures and notification to the commission within three working days of any Prudhoe Bay unit "well that exhibits sustained inner annulus pressure or outer annulus pressure greater than 20 percent of the burst pressure rating of the annulus's outer tubular."
If a well has inner annulus or outer annulus pressure greater than 45 percent of the burst pressure rating of the annulus's outer tubular, the commission must be notified and the well must be immediately shut in until commission-approved corrective action is taken.
At pressures not greater than 45 percent, the commission could sanction continued operation "if the well operator demonstrates, by mechanical integrity testing, the existence of two competent barriers to pressure communication" at testing which the commission has an opportunity to witness.