Oil spill response group forming emergency strike team for Gulf

The Marine Well Containment Co., formed in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil spill to tackle runaway deep-water wells, on Tuesday announced it is assembling a 100-member strike team to operate some of the specialized emergency equipment the firm is bringing online later this year.

The 100 reservists — who will be recruited and trained by Wood Group PSN — will be at the ready in case of another deep-water drilling disaster to run planned equipment for capping wells and siphoning oil to floating capture vessels.

An existing crew of staffers already is available to run current emergency containment equipment offered by the firm. But the Marine Well Containment Company, also known as MWCC, is slated to roll out more specialized cap-and-flow equipment later this year that requires a dedicated crew.

MWCC’s chief executive, Marty Massey, said in a statement that the company plans “to tap into the skilled and industry-experienced workforce of Louisiana and other Gulf states to achieve our mission to be continuously ready to respond with the expanded containment system.”

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The coming, planned system is designed to allow oil and other fluids to be channeled from a deep-water well through a system of flexible pipes and risers to floating capture vessels that are capable of flaring gas and temporarily storing any remaining liquids.

The reservists will be trained regularly to operate the processing equipment on board those modular capture vessels.

The MWCC’s planned expanded containment system, designed for operation in up to 10,000 feet of waters, is expected to be able to contain up to 100,000 barrels of liquid per day. For context, during the 2010 spill, a technical group of engineers and government scientists ultimately concluded that about 62,000 barrels of oil gushed daily from BP’s failed Macondo well, though earlier company estimates set the number as low as 1,000 barrels per day.

Founded by major oil companies and built on equipment used to combat the 2010 oil spill, the Marine Well Containment Company is one of two firms offering emergency equipment for capping subsea wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The other firm is Helix Well Containment Group.

Access to such emergency containment equipment now is a requirement for drilling deep offshore wells, under a new mandate imposed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster revealed the industry did not have such equipment readily available. Instead, BP worked with engineers to develop systems for capping the Macondo well while oil was still gushing at the site.

Federal regulators conducted a drill requiring the MWCC to deploy its capping stack to the sea floor, latch it to a test wellhead and pressurize the system last year.

Now, similar equipment is being developed for use around the world: