Methods of fighting oil fires

Uganda oil well (Reuters)When drilling first started firefighters had to think of ways to contain the fire. The standard practice 80 years ago was to extinguish the blowout with an explosion of dynamite.

A fire needs a source of fuel, heat and oxygen to survive and if any of these ingredients are missing the flame will die, therefore the idea of using dynamite was to blast the fuel and oxygen away from the fire, suffocating it from the source and even today, using dynamite is still one of the most common methods to extinguish an oil well fire.

Apart from using an explosion, another common method is to drill another intersecting well called a ‘relief well’ allowing the fuel or ‘kill fluid’ to move away from the fire, starving it from the source. As a last ditch resort the well would need to be recapped with a large valve called a blowout preventer (BOP).

This involves cutting away the damaged BOP from the well and with the aid of a crane lowering a new BOP onto the well head. To stop the flames overheating the new valve, large amounts of pressurised water is directed onto the surrounding area, as you can imaging with this level of complication the risk to life is far greater.

Read More about fighting oil fires here

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