A well bay provides an access point to a well and accompanying equipment on a drilling platform. On automated platforms, the well bay may make up the bulk of the rig, while larger platforms include accommodations for workers, processing facilities, and other structures. One platform can feature several well bays, allowing the oil company to extract resources from several wells using the same rig. Like other components used in drilling, the well bay is regularly inspected to confirm it is in operational order and it needs to meet health and safety standards set by regulators concerned with oil drilling operations.
This equipment can be used with both dry and wet equipment. For deep-sea drilling, subsurface drilling equipment is needed, while operations in shallower waters can use dry rigging above the surface of the ocean. Depending on the type of well, the situation, and the company, the well bay may have one or two levels. The bottom level provides access to the wellhead, while the top level allows workers to handle the controls and hardware on the so-called Christmas tree of drilling equipment.
Size dictates whether a well bay can accommodate one or more wells. This is built into the design of the platform, based on the outcome of oil and gas exploration conducted in the area to determine what kind of equipment may be necessary. Oil companies work with engineers and technicians to devise the most efficient and effective equipment, including not just the platform but pipelines, terminals, and other components needed to convey the oil from the ocean to refineries on shore.
Inside the well bay, workers can service components, operate controls, and conduct tests. Their work can include specific interventions to address problems with the well, in addition to shutdown procedures in the event of an emergency. Wells may need to be shut down so workers can evacuate, for example, if critical safety issues develop on the platform. They can also be individually controlled to allow workers to service them, a process that may require stopping production to clean and replace components in an overhaul.
Workers in the well bay wear appropriate safety equipment, including hard hats and other gear that may be mandated by the production company. They also receive safety training so they know how to work safely on site. Oil platforms can be dangerous, especially during heavy weather, and workers need to be coordinated and organized.