Spill-containment system for Gulf nears completion

HOUSTON — Marine Well Containment Co. will complete an even larger system for responding to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the year.

Marty Massey, the Houston-based company’s chief executive, told an Offshore Technology Conference audience Tuesday that the spill-containment system will be able to collect up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day from a leaking well in 10,000 feet of water. It includes a capping stack rated for 15,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

The expanded system will be available roughly four years after the non-profit company was formed by Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp., Shell and ConocoPhillips in response to the Gulf of Mexico spill, which lasted 87 days and fouled some 68,000 square miles of waters in part because technology failed. Each of the oil giants – all of which are active in the Gulf – pledged $250 million to develop a rapid-response system for future spills.

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Since then, BP, Apache Corp., Statoil, BHP Billiton, Hess Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. have joined the initiative. The 10 companies hold an equal stake and are dividing the initial $1 billion outlay to build the system. But others also may pay a fee to use it, Massey said.

In all, Marine Well Containment Co’s equipment is listed in the emergency response plans for 156 oil and gas leases in the Gulf.

“We’re ready to respond when needed,” Massey said.

At the same time, the company is working to go even deeper water with its partners. Massey said it is working toward a capping stack rated for 20,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

“We have to move where our members are going,” he said.