By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Firefighters battle flames at engulfed structures during live-fire training exercises. The U.S. Navy trains sailors assigned to submarines by putting them in a listing craft and drenching them with water as they repair damage.

When it comes to well control safety, no such “real world” tests are practical.

Hydrocarbons can be toxic and flammable. Yet oil and gas workers still need the best training and assessment to find and overcome learning gaps.

This is of utmost importance considering that oil and gas operations, both onshore and offshore, can have deadly consequences if workers don’t perform their jobs correctly.

Gaps, as always, remain.

The International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) recognized its well control training program needed improvement.

On May 6, at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, the IADC launched a new training program, WellSharp, to make field operations even safer.

“WellSharp represents a root and branch overhaul to address industry concerns with existing programs, such as knowledge gaps, practical/theoretical imbalance, variable teaching standards, skill retention and robust testing methods,” said Mark Denkowski, executive vice president of operational integrity for IADC.

The training program covers accident prevention and how to respond quickly to incidents.

Here is a rundown of some of the program’s features and industry goals, as described by IADC in a news release:

  • Close knowledge gaps. Risk management, barrier management and directional/horizontal drilling have been added as topics. New courses are available for personnel who previously did not receive well control training. Pre-requisites have been established for some courses. Skills-development exercises target position-specific responsibilities.
  • Rigorous testing. Each level of the training program has a globally standardized knowledge assessment. The program also offers individual simulator assessments to gage the participant’s knowledge and skills.
  • Ensure instructor and skills assessor knowledge. Instructors must identify trends and adjust instruction accordingly. Students will be able to evaluate instructors, who also will undergo an auditing process. Train-the-trainer courses are now required to improve facilitation skills.

In addition, there are more skills exercises and more role-specific and level-specific courses. Electronic testing and grading are centralized to ensure uniformity, and test results become available immediately to instructors so they can provide guidance to students on specific objectives.

“It ensures that rig crews know what they need to do in any circumstance. They have the skills to do it right, every time, all the time,” said IADC President and CEO Stephen Colville. “I am confident that WellSharp will make a contribution to improved performance and safer operations for the global drilling industry.”

Colville said early response from operators and regulators have been encouraging.

Hopefully, this new training program will help lead to fewer accidents, or even better, no accidents.

Contact the author, Velda Addison, at