Gulf oil spill will loom large over Offshore Technology Conference

Last spring’s Macondo well blowout will cast a deep shadow over the Offshore Technology Conference when the event arrives at Reliant Park next week. 

The conference, in which more than 70,000 energy industry-types get to check out the latest in gear related to oil and gas exploration and production, will likely be packed with products trying to address  some of the problems behind the deadly accident and ensuing oil spill. 

Example No. 1: A billboard along Loop 610 near Reliant put up by T-3 Energy Services, a division of industrial conglomerate Robbins-Myers. 

“Experience Shear Innovation,” the billboard proclaims, next to T-3’s OTC booth number. The slogan is a reference to shear ram for blowout preventers, which are designed to cut through drill pipe and seal off a well in the event of a blowout. 

The new product is clearly a response to the forensic examination of the Macondo well BOP, which concluded that the shear rams failed to cut through the drill pipe completely. Just to make the point clear, the press kit T-3 sent me in the mail included a cigar cutter (see picture). 

Cigar cutter included in T-3 press kit


Saeid Rahimian, president of Robbins Myers’ fluid management group, which oversees the T-3 business, told us previously the company was approaching the shear ram design challenge from scratch. Monday at OTC will be the big reveal. 

Other product pitches include improvements to remotely controlled submarines that were the workhorses of the Macondo well control efforts last year, subsea monitoring and pressure measurement equipment and improvements in filtering systems for water that comes out production wells. 

But the Macondo disaster isn’t the only incident being used by OTC exhibitors. 

CorDEX Instruments is rolling out a new tool for detecting pipeline corrosion by reminding us of other recent energy-related accidents of a more terrestrial nature. 

“The launch [of the product] comes as pressure mounts for better pipeline maintenance following tragic incidents including an explosion in San Bruno, California,” the CorDEX press release reads. “A federal investigation recently cast blame on defective welds in the 60 year old pipeline and poor testing and record keeping.” 

As in years past (even when there were not headline-grabbing incidents) the Houston Chronicle/ team will be at OTC for all four days of the conference next week. Keep coming back to the site and checking us out on Twitter (using the #OTCHouston tag) throughout.