Salazar in Houston to check out spill containment systems


Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is in Houston today to visit the two groups that have developed systems to contain and cap undersea well blowouts like last year’s Macondo accident.

Salazar is visiting first with Houston’s own Helix Energy Solutions, which has a system that is says will be able to arrive at a well site and start containing a blowout within a week.

Later he’ll meet with the The Marine Well Containment Co., the consortium formed by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and later joined by BP. The MWCC system can be on the scene of a blowout in two to three weeks.

Such spill systems appear to be the final piece of the puzzle needed before federal officials begin issuing new deep-water drilling permits. The requirement came in reaction to the length of the Macondo spill (85 days) and the fact that many companies drilling in the Gulf had cookie-cutter spill response plans that included outdated information and data related to operations in other bodies of water.

The director of the federal ocean energy management bureau, Michael Bromwich, told us earlier this month he expected new deep-water permits in a matter of weeks. And this week Shell signed up a Noble deep-water rig for work in the Gulf. So the day of new permit approvals could be imminent.

Salazar will do a brief press conference this afternoon on his way out of town, so check back with us later to hear what he has to say.

We’re curious to see if he busts out his cowboy hat (as a Coloradan he owns a couple) in honor of Go Texan Day. Early reports are he’s not wearing a hat, but his boots are on.

Tom Fowler

6 Responses

  1. bg says:

    I think Ken’s choice of a black hat is entirely appropriate.

  2. riograndevalleygirl says:

    I understand Salazar left the meeting stating nothing has changed, no new drilling. Chronicle…is this true? Where is the follow up on this story?

    • Tom Fowler says:

      During the press conf. on Friday they did not announce any new permits being issued, which wasn’t expected anyhow and is what I reported. Since Friday we’ve had Saturday and Sunday, days on which most people don’t work, i.e. review permits, make announcements about new permits etc. It’s now Monday. Maybe if you can be patient a few more hours you will see some new news on the deep water permitting front.

  3. jayclapp says:

    So now the government is going to let the oil industry accept a cobbled up device to “contain and cap undersea well blowouts” as the solution to spills in deep water drilling.

    How absurd. How about focusing on “preventing” such blowouts? That’s the real solution. Of course the oil industry in only interested in capturing a spill, which basically allows them to put the well in production while they fiddle around in a kill.

    The oil industry must be forced to re-design, test and develop, and certify a BOP that will actually work. Each BOP then manufactured must pass a certification test before sale. The oil industry should have started this process after the Macondo spill. The process should be patterned after FAA procedures for the aircraft industry.

    But, this process would cost a few million dollars and take a couple of years or more. The oil industry has no interest in such a delay and has, and will, use their ownership of Congress and the agencies to prevent this type of solution. You can see that Salazar is well on board with the oil industry with their preferred method of production priority of “drill baby, drill”.

  4. Lee Kaplan says:

    What a disappointment. He has turned out to be a political hack and he has damaged our national security.

  5. Tex says:

    Waste of tax payer money flying Salazar on a government jet to Houston. Salazar would not be able to tell the difference between a garden hose and an umbilical.