Friday, February 18, 2011

MWCC Announces Initial Deepwater Oil Spill Containment System

Subscribers Note: We will not be publishing on Monday, February 21, 2011,
in observance of the Washington's Birthday/President's Day Federal holiday.
Feb 17: The Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) announced the completion and availability of an initial well containment response system that will provide rapid containment response capabilities in the event of a potential future underwater well control incident in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. MWCC is a not-for-profit, independent organization committed to improving capabilities for containing a potential underwater well control incident in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. ExxonMobil is leading the construction of the billion-dollar system in partnership with Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell. MWCC will own, operate, deploy and maintain the system.
    The initial response system includes a subsea capping stack with the ability to shut in oil flow or to flow the oil via flexible pipes and risers to surface vessels. The system also includes subsea dispersant injection equipment, manifolds and, through mutual aid among members, capture vessels to provide surface processing and storage. The company has consulted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to ensure the system is designed to meet the government's requirements as outlined in NTL No. 2010-N10.
    According to a release from MWCC, ExxonMobil, in partnership with Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, continues to lead the
development of additional system components to expand the initial system's capabilities, with completion of the expanded system set for 2012. Marty Massey, chief executive officer said, "The Marine Well Containment Company has successfully developed a solution for rapid well containment response. This milestone fulfills a commitment set forth by the four sponsor companies to deliver a rapid containment response capability within the first six months of launching the marine well containment project."
    The interim system can operate in water depths up to 8,000 feet and has storage and processing capacity for up to 60,000 barrels per day of liquids. The capping stack has a maximum operating pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch. The equipment is located on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Membership in MWCC is open to all companies operating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Members will have access to the initial well containment response system, as well as the expanded system upon completion of its construction. Non-members will also have access to the systems through a service agreement and fee.
    U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) reacted quickly to the MWCC announcement and said he "welcomed the opportunity for increased American energy production in response to news that a well containment system is now operational in the Gulf." He said, "Development of an underwater oil containment system was a key condition for reinstatement of Gulf oil production after last year's catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill." Upton also praised a ruling by Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana that ordered the Department of Interior to act on five outstanding deep-water drilling permits within 30 days.

    Rep. Upton said, "Completion of the well containment response system is welcome news for the families in the Gulf region who rely on energy production for their livelihoods, but who have remained sidelined since the spill. And ultimately, this is good news for all Americans. The more energy we can produce safely here at home, the more secure and energy-independent our nation will be." 

    U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) also welcomed the news that oil and gas operators had successfully tested a new rapid response containment system that can trap as much as 60,000 barrels of oil per day from a leaking deepwater well and stop a spill within weeks. She said, "This means that instead of developing a containment system during the spill, as we saw happen with the Macondo well in the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the equipment is already built, tested and ready to be deployed as necessary.  This should give BOEMRE and the American public complete confidence that oil will not spew into the environment for days on end.  This test provides assurance that the industry can contain a spill, if necessary."

    Senator Landrieu also issued a release commenting On Judge Feldman's order. She said in part, "Sen. Landrieu said, "Once again, BOEMRE's delay tactics to avoid issuing new drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico have drawn federal court intervention.  Just two weeks ago, Judge Feldman found Secretary Salazar in contempt for his failure to comply with an earlier order to lift the moratorium on permits.  Now, Judge Feldman is giving BOEMRE a deadline to do its job. . . What's the matter with this agency?  Do they think they are above the law?  Their foot-dragging is squeezing Louisiana's economy.  Rigs are leaving the Gulf for other parts of the world, taking thousands of jobs with them.  Just last week, one company, Seahawk Drilling, filed for bankruptcy because it can't get a drilling permit. . ."
    Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. also announced on January 21, 2011, that it has executed agreements for its Helix Fast Response System (HFRS) to be named as a spill response resource for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in response plans submitted by oil and gas producers with state and Federal authorities. The HFRS centers on two vessels, the Helix Producer I and the Q4000, both of which played a key role in the BP Macondo spill response and are presently operating in the GOM. Helix signed an agreement with Clean Gulf Associates (CGA), a non-profit industry group, making the HFRS available for a two year term to CGA participants in the event of a GOM well blow out incident in exchange for a retainer fee. In addition to the agreement with CGA, Helix also has signed separate utilization agreements with 19 CGA participant member companies to date specifying the day rates to be charged should the solution be deployed. Owen Kratz, CEO of Helix said, "We are pleased to have reached agreements with a key group of industry players to provide the Gulf of Mexico's first proven spill containment system. We firmly believe that our proven, industry-led solution is critical to establishing confidence in the industry's ability to respond to potential blow out incidents in the region."

    Access a release from MWCC (click here). Access the MWCC website for more information including pictures of the interim system capping stack (click here). Access a release from Rep. Upton (click here). Access a release from Senator Landrieu on MWCC (click here). Access a release from Senator Landrieu on the Feldman order (click here). Access a release from Helix Energy on the HFRS system and link to more information (click here).
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