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Trecate; 1994

Oily Stuff is revisiting a significant blowout in Italy in 1994, thanks mostly to additional information provided by my friend, Dan Eby, with Blowout Engineers. A number of years ago Dan had personal conversations about this well with one of the world's renown blowout specialists, Pat Campbell (1945-2013); a number of additional photographs are now included, also thanks to Dan.

This is the ENI AGIP, Trecate No. 24 in the Villafortuna Field; Po Valley, Northern Italy, 1994. A large diameter protective string of casing was set 50 feet above a known, over-pressured "kick" zone at approximately 3,500 meters. The over-pressured zone was drilled into, the well kicked, the rams were all closed and the top drive was stabbed on the drill pipe. Several hours later the DP parted, buckled below the top drive and surface control was lost. This was some high pressure (16Ksi BHP), hot (380F BHT), shit. So hot, in fact, most of what you see in this photo, above, is just a big hydrocarbon vapor cloud.

The well made lots of oil and pollution was a big threat to Po Valley crop land and nearby grape vineyards. Wild Well Control was called on the job with Pat Campbell the lead off hand, Freddy Gebhardt, David Middleton and Sam Bowden, Joe Bowden's son, all in attendance.

Mr. Campbell remembered having to "wade thru four feet of oil" to get to the rig.

Pat and Freddy walk into the breach; Northern Italy, 1994

View from the rig floor showing the depth of oil in, and around, the location. Italians were able to throw up levees to protect crop land.

Pat Campbell was quoted as saying "if ever a well was designed not to bridge, the Trecate No. 24 was it." Oil was blowing high enough over the crown and far enough downwind that 100 year old olive trees were being covered. Consideration was given to igniting the well and a last minute ruling from Pat prevented that. As fate would have it the well did bridge off the very next day.

View of buckled drill pipe, with elevators still latched, below the top drive.

Post blowout snubbing operations.

On the left, a young student from a nearby primary school in Trecate made this drawing of the 1994 blowout.

The Trecate event cost ENI AGIP a total of $124MM USD in 1994, including clean up and restitution to landowners for damages.

Italians being Italians (hey, I am married to one !) like to place blame and get even, so the local police department, as Pat described it, "arrested" the top drive and took it back to the station for questioning. No joke!


Pat Campbell (1945-2013)

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