Exxon-led spill containment group debuts deeper-water system


The Marine Well Containment Company, a non-profit consortium of major oil companies led by Exxon Mobil Corp., said today  it has begun offering a system capable of containing oil spills in 10,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, an improvement over a previous 8,000-foot system.

The beefed-up equipment, like its predecessor, is capable of capturing 60,000 barrels of oil per day from a leaking well, roughly equivalent to the daily amount of crude that gushed from BP’s blown-out Macondo well last year. But with the higher water-depth rating, it will be able to service more Gulf wells.

“This increase in our capability demonstrates our commitment to providing a comprehensive deepwater well containment system for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico,” Marty Massey, CEO of Marine Well Containment Co., or MWCC, said in a statement.

Next year, MWCC plans offer an expanded system, capable of collecting up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day and 200 million cubic feet per day of natural gas.

The equipment is a response to tougher safety and environmental regulations in the Gulf following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and launched the nation’s worst oil spill. Before winning permits to drill in the deep water Gulf, oil companies are now required to prove they have access to containment systems able to halt even a worst-case spill from the wells.

In April, MWCC announced that the centerpiece of its new well containment unit, a 100-ton capping stack, was ready for use in the Gulf. A separate system, by Helix Energy Solutions, has also been approved by regulators for deployment. Separately, Houston’s Wild Well Control has begun marketing a spill c0ntainment system for international offshore basins.  

But, despite having the equipment available, the oil and gas industry still complains Interior Department regulators are taking too long to approve new deep-water drilling permits in the Gulf, even though a post-spill ban on most of that activity was lifted in October. Regulators say they are moving as fast as they can, given the raft of new requirements operators must satisfy before receiving permits.

Brett Clanton

8 Responses

  1. HOTCO says:

    As “intangle” points out there is no provision for containing the spill if the casing leaks.
    All deepwater drilling should be prohibited until there is a positive way to capture the well fluids even if the leak is upstream of the BOP and/or away from the wellhead which capping the wellhead won’t do.

  2. airdale says:

    No big fan of every cotton pickin’ thing being regulated but with banks, brokers,airlines, and now oil recently saying one thing and doing another and not playing by the rules and letting the dollar be their guide and not common sense does it really surprise us that most folks want some barriers set up to curb excesses? And do we really want China, Brazil & India as our business model for environmental rules which seems more like an invitation for those days when that river in Cleveland had spontaneous combustion around 1970? What would the ship channel be like with all the refineries with no rules on discharges?

  3. Irish_One says:

    Terrance, U.S. taxes & regulations spur innovation in Brazil (off the coast of Rio to be exact).

    Domestically, regulation has stalled innovation, and subsequent job growth (search “Unemployment will not go over 8% if we have this bailout”).

  4. BoomOrBust says:

    @ Terrance
    Of course innovation was spurred by government regulation. It would be insane to suggest it had nothing to do with the proactive “Can Do” attitude of the Oil & Gas Industry.

  5. John says:

    terrance, regulation adds costs to the bottom line. in this case, it definitely made sense but many of the environmental regulations put burdens on the american oil and gas companies making them uncompetitive with the rest of the world.

  6. Terrance says:

    Wait so your telling me that regulation spurred innovation. I thought regulatin killed jobs. Silly me I must have got my baseless rant wrong.

  7. ntangle says:

    What has become of their proposed “caisson” type collection method, in case the casing no longer has integrity?

  8. Cecil says:

    BP, Subsea 7, Oceaneering, FMC and Cameron have already built and tested a similar deepwater containment system offshore Angola.