1. n. [Drilling]
A device that can be used to quickly seal the top of the well in the event of a well control event (kick). A ram blowout preventer (BOP) consists of two halves of a cover for the well that are split down the middle. Large-diameter hydraulic cylinders, normally retracted, force the two halves of the cover together in the middle to seal the wellbore. These covers are constructed of steel for strength and fitted with elastomer components on the sealing surfaces. The halves of the covers, formally called ram blocks, are available in a variety of configurations. In some designs, they are flat at the mating surfaces to enable them to seal over an open wellbore. Other designs have a circular cutout in the middle that corresponds to the diameter of the pipe in the hole to seal the well when pipe is in the hole. These pipe rams effectively seal a limited range of pipe diameters. Variable-bore rams are designed to seal a wider range of pipe diameters, albeit at a sacrifice of other design criteria, notably element life and hang-off weight. Still other ram blocks are fitted with a tool steel-cutting surface to enable the ram BOPs to completely shear through drillpipe, hang the drillstring off on the ram blocks themselves and seal the wellbore. Obviously, such an action limits future options and is employed only as a last resort to regain pressure control of the wellbore. The various ram blocks can be changed in the ram preventers, enabling the well team to optimize BOP configuration for the particular hole section or operation in progress.