Oil Companies Plan $1 Billion Rapid Response System for Deepwater Spills

WASHINGTON, DC, July 23, 2010 (ENS) – Four of the world’s largest oil companies have committed $1 billion to build and operate a subsea containment assembly that will prevent oil from escaping into the water in the event of future deepwater accidents.

Galvanized by BP’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell will form a nonprofit organization, the Marine Well Containment Company, to fabricate, operate and maintain the system, which can be deployed within 24 hours.

ExxonMobil has been designated to lead the engineering and construction efforts and other companies will be invited and encouraged to participate in this organization.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Decisive patrols BP oil spill site just before these ships and rigs pulled out ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie. July 22, 2010. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

“If we all do our jobs properly, this system will never be used,” said Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil. “The extensive experience of industry shows that when the focus remains on safe operations and risk management, tragic incidents like the one we are witnessing in the Gulf of Mexico today should not occur.”

The new system will be flexible, adaptable to a wide range of well designs and equipment, oil and natural gas flow rates and weather conditions.

It will be engineered to be used in deepwater depths up to 10,000 feet and have initial capacity to contain 100,000 barrels per day with potential for expansion.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon well is located nearly 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

“The oil and gas industry has long been recognized as a technological leader, and the American public expects us to improve our ability to respond immediately to offshore incidents,” said Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer. “The creation and development of this sophisticated system will greatly enhance industry’s ability to ensure a quick and effective response.”

This planned system is better than current response equipment in that it will be pre-engineered, constructed, tested and ready for rapid deployment in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, the four companies said in a statement. It is being developed by a team of marine, subsea and construction engineers from all four companies.

The system will include specially designed subsea containment equipment connected by manifolds, jumpers and risers to capture vessels that will store and offload the oil. Dedicated crews will ensure regular maintenance, inspection and readiness of the facilities and subsea equipment.

“As an industry, we must rebuild trust with the American people in order to demonstrate that we can produce energy in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said Marvin Odum, president, Shell Oil Company.

“Beyond Shell’s absolute commitment to oil spill prevention and robust well designs, additional safeguards must be strengthened across the industry to develop the capacity to quickly respond and resolve a deepwater well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, regardless of how unlikely it is that this situation will reoccur,” Odum said.

Work on the new containment system is being accelerated to enhance deepwater safety and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 30 percent of U.S. oil and gas production and supports more than 170,000 American jobs.

“Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon incident, the oil and natural gas industry developed a number of task forces to focus on improvements to equipment, operations, subsea well control and spill containment,” said American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard. “This effort complements the work already ongoing from the task forces, and we will continue to work together to regain the public’s confidence in the industry.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.