Oil majors say well containment system is ready for use
Washington (Platts)--17Feb2011/419 pm EST/2119 GMT
A group of four major oil companies said Thursday it is ready to deploy
an interim well containment system in the US designed to cap a leaking
deepwater well and deal with a resulting spill.
The Marine Well Containment Company, formed by ExxonMobil, Shell,
ConocoPhillips and Chevron, said its system is designed to meet the new
post-Macondo safety standards demanded by federal regulators, who have said
they will not approve deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico without
such a containment capability.
Engineers from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and
Enforcement witnessed testing of a key component of the system on Wednesday,
Clay Vaughn, vice president of deepwater projects at ExxonMobil Development
Company, said during a conference call with reporters. The capping stack, made
by Trendsetter Engineering in Houston, is the first piece of equipment that
would be deployed under the system to address a well blowout, he said.
A BOEM spokeswoman said engineers are reviewing those test results and,
if they are satisfied, then the MWCC system will be accepted on deepwater well
permit applications as a containment system in compliance with regulations.
"The need to demonstrate well control and containment capacity for
deepwater drilling was made clear by the Macondo blowout," BOEM spokeswoman
Melissa Schwartz said in a statement. "We appreciate Marine Well Containment
Company's significant progress to address this issue, and we continue to
encourage them to make their containment system available as quickly as
possible to deepwater operators so that new, responsible oil and gas drilling
in deepwater can proceed."
MWCC officials said they did not know how long it would take BOEM to
complete its review.
"Our company is formed, our system is available, and we're open for
business today," Marty Massey, CEO of MWCC, told reporters. "We have provided
all the documentation BOEM has requested. We believe what we have provided is
sufficient and meets the intent of the regulation and can be included in
permit applications today. The ultimate test, obviously, will be those permit
BP has since joined the group and donated the capping stack, manifolds
and other equipment it used to successfully seal its Macondo well, which
suffered a blowout last April and spilled nearly 5 million barrels. According
to a US government estimate, about 4.9 million barrels escaped the well,
including some 800,000 barrels of which was collected by BP.
"The Marine Well Containment Company has successfully developed a
solution for rapid well containment response," Massey said in a statement.
"This milestone fulfills a commitment set forth by the four [original] sponsor
companies to deliver a rapid containment response capability within the first
six months of launching the marine well containment project."
The MWCC said its interim containment system is capable of operating in
in water depths up to 8,000 feet and has storage and processing capacity for
up to 60,000 b/d of liquids. The capping stack has a maximum operating
pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch, the MWCC said.
The MWCC continues to work on a longer-term containment system, which
which is slated to be finished in 2012 and will operate in deeper water.
--Gary Gentile, firstname.lastname@example.org
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