Vulnerability and imagination in the Snorre A gas blowout and recovery ///

In 2004, Statoil lost control of a well on the Snorre A TLP on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) during a slot recovery operation. The platform was engulfed in a cloud of gas, which fortunately did not ignite. Following safety procedures, oil production was shut down and main power was cut. Most personnel were evacuated by helicopter to nearby platforms. About 35 remained to regain control over the well. Violating several safety regulations, they restored main power and made several attempts to mix and pump drilling mud before finally killing the well. This article argues that the loss of control was due to the entrainment of safety-critical work in a culture of business performance optimization, and that the successful recovery depended on the imaginative capabilities of the platform crew in trying to understand what was happening and in deciding on courses of action.

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