AlbaFireFighters (AFF) are a firefighting and well control company, formed to fight the Kuwait Oil Fires in 1991;
full details described below; AFF are part of Alba International who provide Oil and Gas Recruitment Services Worldwide;
Since Kuwait, we have provided fully qualified and experienced senior personnel; to the Major Oil and Gas Companies
throughout the World with :
: Oil and Gas Firefighters
: Drilling Supervisors
: Well Control Engineers
: Petroleum Engineers
: Mechanical Engineers
: Well Recovery Engineers
AFF Emergency Blowout Team
A number of clients, have also requested our assistance in Blow Out Incidents, from Russia,Vietnam and Uzbekistan;
so we are therefore in the process of reforming AlbaFireFighters (AFF) into a Emergency Blowout Team; to respond
to Oil and Gas Blowouts Worldwide.Since such blowouts happen on rare occasions; we are operating a "Call Up"
contract basis, whereby fully qualified and experienced firefighters and blowout personnel, are prequalified by AFF ,
and have signed a "Call Up" contract in the event of an emergency blowout. And shall only be "Called Out" when the
client requires our services, and we have negotiated the terms and conditions of business.We now have over 300
applications for these firefighting positions,from fully experienced and qualified, firefighters; drilling engineers;
petroleum engineers; mechanical engineers and well control engineers; from throughout the World; which we are
reviewing, to be part of the AFF team.
Our first featured article is "A Job Well Done" by Brian Simpson of AlbaFireFighters describing the Kuwait Firefighting
in 1991.AlbaFireFighters (AFF),( part of Alba International) were the only British company,
out of a total of 1100 companies, who officially qualified as a firefighting team,
by the Kuwait authorities capable of fighting the fires raging in the Kuwait Oilfields,
after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in 1991.
We had put together a firefighting team of over 30 British Firefighters, who had Worldwide experience of firefighting
and well control, prepared to move into Kuwait immediately.As usual the problem was not the practical task at
hand, but the politics during the aftermath of the war, which stopped us actually working on the fires, even
although we had prequalified for the contract.
This article was first published by the Middle East Technical Review in 1991.
THE GREATEST firefighting operation the world has ever seen is now over with the Americans taking the lead in
the number of total wells "killed." As there are usually only about 20 blowouts worldwide per year,
obviously with over 700 wellsburning this was a unique situation.
The US, in from the beginning, capped 403 wells, with six different companies operating, while Canada killed 194
with just two teams. Safety Boss of Canada, lead by Mike Miller, was the team with the most kills with 176 fires put out.
The Canadians showed little regard for their own safety, but thank-fully no one from their team was killed or seriously
injured. Out of the entire operation, only one firefighter was killed - a member of the Chinese team killed
during firefighting operations in the Ahmadi field.
The Kuwaitis themselves proved more than adept at putting out the fires by killing a total of 72 wells.
The team leader, Ms Sarah Salah, was the real heroine. As an employee of Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) during the Iraqi
occupation she hid the computer tapes containing details of Kuwait's oil wells before joining the resistance.
After the liberation. Ms Salah was able to return the computer tapes to KOC, which has proved invaluable in restoring
Kuwait's oil industry. When the Kuwaiti firefighting team was formed in September, she was given the task of leading it.
Other countries which formed fire fighting groups turned in a very creditable performance, such as Iran with 20 kills,
followed by China (10), Hungary (nine); Romania (six) and Russia (four). No UK firefighting teams were involved
although the UK is the fifth largest oil-producing nation in the world.
Kuwait had awarded 80 wells in the northern Sabriya field to the UK in gratitude for its participation in the war.
But the Kuwait British Group (KBG), a consortium of Taylor Woodrow, Amec and Wimpey and sponsored by
the UK government, chose to contract out to the American firefighter Neil Adams rather than to any UK teams.
There was controversy about the amount of time the consortium took to finalise its contract.
The deal was signed on September 4 although talks had begun as early as April. The deal was concluded
only after KGB had carried out a study of the burning wells that took six weeks, far longer than any of the
other groups'. In the meantime, the Canadian team started work in the Sabriya field.
During that time, Alba Firefighters (AFF), the only UK team to prequalify as firefighters, was ready and
willing to go to work but was unable to do so because after so much time the Kuwaitis were about to
demobilise the teams and the section awarded to the UK had already been contracted out to the Americans.
Since then Alba has prequalified with Kuwait National Petroleum Co for instrumentation and electrical
work in the refineries to be carried out some time in the New Year.
Ironically, the firefighting effort would not have been necessary if the ex- minister of oil, while in exile
in Saudi Arabia had not "let the cat out of the bag" by telling the world the local Kuwaitis had come
to an arrangement with the Iraqi commandos not to blow up the oilfields. say senior KOC officials.
As a result, Saddam Hussein sent in the Republican Guard machine gun squads to supervise the blowing up of the wells.
Before well killing can proceed, an enormous amount of preparation work is essential for successful firefighting
. This includes:
Assembling the necessary skilled personnel
Acquiring all the heavy plant and equipment required, including "flare stack" heavy cranes and bulldozers
Securing a supply of high volume water
Clearing the work area of unexploded ordnance and booby traps left by the fleeing Iraqis
Organising living accommodation for the work force.
Over 700 wells were set ablaze by the fleeing Iraqis, 670 of which were in the massive Burgan complex.
Burgan sand wells range from 4000 to 5000 feet deep, closed in thp of 600 psi. and an open flow potential
up to 60,000 bpd, with seven inch casing and 3.5 inch tubing and, unfortunately for the Kuwaitis, no down
hole shut off valves, and which they are now fitting.
More recently a number of wells have been completed to 12-14,000 ft in the Marat formation below the Burgan Sands.
These could have an open flow potential of anything up to 20,000 bpd with 8000 psi closed in thp - they also have
the added hazard of producing 2-3 per cent H2S.
It is estimated that Kuwait was losing six million barrels of oil per day immediately after the liberation.
The basic piece of firefighting equipment is the "flare stack" which is a 30-40 ft high steel chimney connected to a
crane. Once the area has been cooled down by high-pressure water monitors, the flare stack is put in position
over the blazing well. Resulting in the flame being "kicked" 40 ft into the air thereby allowing the drilling engineers
to work on the well head, again after being cooled off.
Once the blaze has been extinguished and the area cleared of coke. the drilling engineers can place the blow out
preventer (BOP) and cut off the oil flow, thus successfully killing the well.Another approach was taken by the
Hungarians and Romanians. who used ex MIG jet engines, reversed and fitted onto T54 tanks, thereby
sucking all the oxygen from the blazing blow out. Therefore, no oxygen, no fire!
This proved very simple and effective, much to the amazement of the other teams in Kuwait.
Altogether the teams developed new techniques to deal with the fires and the steep learning
curve meant the wells were killed in extraordinary good time. After initial confusion, the Kuwaitis
made incredible progress under the direction of the Oil Minister Hamoud Abdullah al-Rquba.
And Bechtel, the project management contractor, effectively organised the infrastructure which
enabled the firefighting to be carried out so quickly.
The entire Kuwait programme is known as "AI-Awada' the return," - and which the Kuwaitis are doing very successfully,
with the complete assistance from the world's firefighters and oilmen under very difficult circumstances.
Let us hope we never again see another