• By Tom Hill
  • Jul 26, 2018

NOV and Tejas working together

Subsurface safety valves (SSSVs), which are standard and often statutorily required in the oil and gas industry for upper completions, were first developed in the late 1930s. Operators sought to drill more high-pressure wells, often near populated areas or, conversely, offshore or very isolated areas, making the need for a device to protect the wells from uncontrolled flow increasingly apparent. The need was made even more urgent by the fact that the uncontrolled flow could be caused by accident or by damage to the surface equipment, which at the time was quite common.

By the 1970s three companies had established themselves as industry leaders as SSSV suppliers in the field: Otis Engineering (now Halliburton), Baker Hughes (now Baker Hughes, a GE company) and Camco Products and Services (now Schlumberger). Implementation of SSSVs grew, but it was not until the Piper Alpha incident of the late 1980s that regulations truly shifted. The explosion on Piper Alpha and resulting oil and gas fires that destroyed the platform served as the impetus for global regulatory mandates that SSSVs be deployed in offshore wells.

The watchword for the 21st century oil industry has been reliability, as offshore, deepwater workovers in many wells cost tens of millions of dollars. As such, reliability became the primary focus and mission of the engineering team at Tejas Research & Engineering as it moved to design and deliver reliable, high-performing products. In the late 2000s the energy industry and governments worldwide revisited the use of SSSV deployment requirements, which had not seen much change since the Piper Alpha incident more than two decades prior. The consensus was that when reliable SSSVs are present, a blowout and oil spill are virtually impossible. Therefore, many governments, such as the EU, now require SSSVs in all wells—even those on land.

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