One method of killing a well when there is no drillstring in the hole is the Volumetric Method. The volumetric method uses the expansion of the gas to maintain bottom hole pressure greater than formation pressure. Pressures are adjusted by bleeding off at the choke in small amounts. This is a slow process which maintains constant bottom hole pressure while allowing the gas bubble to migrate to surface under the effects of buoyancy. When the gas reaches surface it is gradually bled off whilst mud is pumped slowly into the well through the kill line. Once the gas is out of the well, heavier mud must be circulated. This can be done with a snubbing unit. This equipment allows a small diameter pipe to be into the hole through the closed BOPs.

Blow out preventors (BOPs) must be installed to cope with any kicks that may occur. BOPs are basically high pressure valves which seal off the top of the well. On land rigs or fixed platforms the BOP stack is located directly beneath the rig floor. On floating rigs the BOP stack is installed on the sea bed. In either case the valves are hydraulically operated from the rig floor.

There are two basic types of BOP.

Annular preventor – designed to seal off the annulus between the drillstring and the side of hole (may also seal off open hole if kick occurs while the pipe is out of the hole). These are made of synthetic rubber which, when expanded, will seal off the cavity (Figure 14).

hydril annular bop

Ram type preventor – designed to seal off the annulus by ramming large rubber-faced blocks of steel together. Different types are available:

blind rams – seal off in open hole
pipe rams – seal off around drillpipe (Figure 15)
shear rams – sever drillpipe (used as last resort)

RAM type bop

Normally the BOP stack will contain both annular and ram type preventors ( Figure 16).

bop stack up

To stop the flow of fluids from the drillpipe, the kelly cock valves can be closed, or an internal BOP (basically a non-return check valve preventing upward flow) can be fitted into the drillstring.

Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University