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Now Wintershall is gearing up for Maria to startIn preparation, Wintershall has brought in former pilots from the USA. Their purpose is to ensure that the risk of human error is a small as possible.

On 20 March, Wintershall will start drilling in the Maria field in the Norwegian Sea. The wells will be drilled by Deepsea Stavanger, which has been laid up at Ågotnes CCB since last summer. The rig will soon have to be ready for action, and Wintershall has been working flat-out to make sure that its crew is as well prepared as possible. In order to achieve this, they have put together a unique concept.

Crews from Odfjell and Halliburton have been assisting Wintershall in the preparations for drilling in the Maria field. The operator has set tough targets for five suppliers, who are specialists in the various fields of training, personal development and coaching. Oiltec, Cavu, Maersk Training, eDrilling and K&M have drawn up a joint, integrated training programme, which aims to prepare all the personnel who will be involved in the drilling operations, both offshore and onshore.

Intends to learn from the Macondo accident

A major part of this is technical training, but there is also a strong emphasis on the human factors.

Wintershall has a strong focus on safety and efficiency. After the fatal Macondo accident in the Gulf of Mexico, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers issued a direct recommendation to the oil companies to train for various scenarios, not only technical ones, but also for other, interhuman factors that could affect drilling and safety.

“Making sure that everyone on board is coordinated is incredibly important for us. We have to work together as a team”, Nils Petter Norheim, head of Maria’s drilling operations, told Sysla Offshore.

Practising for the Maria wells

Part of the training consists of a two-day course in theoretical training on drilling horizontal wells. To do this realistically, Maria wells have been created in simulators. Here, the crews can train in well control exercises, potential challenges and the theoretical principles they have learned from the course. A major element of this is Crew Resource Management.

“The people who will be in the drilling cabin offshore have also been in the simulator supplied by Oiltec. Here we can train in teamwork and leadership. The course has now been completed by 75 employees. For Wintershall, it was important to include aspects other than just simulator training”, said Norheim.

Maria is Wintershall’s first subsea field in Norway.

“There are risks when you start up with a new crew on a rig that has been laid up. But from the point of view of efficiency and safety, it was important for us to provide training that was as realistic as possible, with a strong focus on real challenges and potential well control incidents.

Now the rig is being made ready for operation, with the installation of third-party equipment. It will be on its way out to Haltenbanken and the Maria field very shortly”.

As realistic as possible

“Oiltec and its partners have been involved in this development work for some time. Our dynamic drilling simulators replicate the well that is to be drilled. This gives the drilling crews a unique opportunity to train in a way that is as realistic as possible”, said Tom Bremer, Managing Director of Oiltec.

He is impressed by Wintershall’s setup.

“Many of the Cavu employees are former fighter pilots, who have a great deal of experience in simulator training and team training. This method of planning and training is routine for them. They have many years of experience and training in teamwork and leadership. These people train crews from Odfjell and Halliburton. This combination of theory, simulator training and coaching has never been used before in Norway. The aviation industry has shown us how big a role is played by the human factor. Through our Crew Resource Management training programme in the simulator, we are transferring this methodical approach to training to the oil industry”, said Bremer.

Experience from the Air Force and aviation

David Burnham is the CEO of Cavu. According to him, Wintershall’s Maria training is a relatively new concept for the oil companies. The method has been used in the American armed forces for 50 years, and in all the American commercial airlines for several decades.

“Experience is a key human factor that can affect the outcome both positively and negatively. In a simulator, we can quickly generate years of ‘equivalent experience’. By subjecting the crew to major problem scenarios, they develop skills at identifying a situation at an early stage and stabilising it, as well as getting back to normal operations – all in a controlled environment. This is exactly how pilots and astronauts train throughout their careers, because we do not want them to see a problem for the first time when they are out in the real world, with real consequences. The level of performance must be continuously improved, maintained and verified, which tends to be impossible inoperative environments, but which can easily be achieved in a simulator environment”, Burnham told Sysla Offshore.

All the coaches used by the company have several decades of experience in military leadership, teamwork and training. They also come from backgrounds including aviation, nuclear power and special forces.

“That makes them ideally suited to tackling the challenges of the offshore industry”.

Major activity ahead

Wintershall will drill six wells at Haltenbanken; four production wells and two water injection wells. Two subsea templates have been installed at a depth of 300 metres. To connect the reservoir to Åsgard B, Kristin and Heidrun, 94 kilometres of pipeline have been laid.

The operation will take around 580 days. It will result in major activity, particularly in Kristiansund. There will be helicopter traffic four days a week, with daily calls by supply boats.

The Cavu coaches will continue to work with the drilling crews offshore. 



  • The Maria field is at a depth of 300 m in the Haltenbanken area of the Norwegian Sea.

  • Wintershall is the operator of the Maria field, with a stake of 50 per cent. Petoro has 30 per cent, and Centrica Resources (Norge) owns the remaining 20 per cent.

  • The development solution chosen for the field is a production facility on the sea bed, connected to several host platforms in the Norwegian Sea.

  • Investments in Maria, including wells, are estimated to have amounted to around NOK 15.3 billion. The field is estimated to contain up to 180 million barrels of oil and gas, mainly oil.

Author: Ane Madsen Knoph


All information about the Maria project

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