Oil containment co. gets new tanker, takes part in spill drill

The company formed by major oil companies to handle future subsea well blowouts is adding a new piece to its system.

The Marine Well Containment Company took delivery of a new Aframax tanker, the “Eagle Texas,” to serve as one of two dedicated vessels that will process and store oil as it is being recovered from a subsea blowout.

The Eagle Texas was commissioned at a recent ceremony in Takamatsu, Japan and will soon undergo conversion and modification before come to the Gulf of Mexico. The tanker will be operated by AET Tanker Holdings.

“This tanker is critical to our expanded containment system, which will be operational next year,” said MWCC Chief Executive Officer Marty Massey. “With the interim and expanded containment systems, MWCC is able to achieve its mission to be continuously ready to respond to a deepwater well control incident in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.”

Modular process equipment will be installed on the tow capture vessels that will connect to the riser assembly that directs the oil from the subsea components. The process equipment will separate the oil from the gas, store the oil and flare the gas. Oil will be offloaded to shuttle tankers and transported to shore.

The company’s expanded containment system is expected to be completed by 2012. It is being engineered for use in depths of up to 10,000 feet and to have the capacity to process up to 100,000 barrels of liquids up to 200 million cubic feet of gas per day.

A spokeswoman for the MWCC said the non-profit also took part in an unannounced drill conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to test the new requirements of sub-sea containment.

Led by BOEMRE, the “table-top” drill, was a joint exercise with the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Louisiana, and Petrobras America, which is using the MWCC system for all of its Gulf of Mexico operations.

According to BOEMRE the preliminary results of the drill, which took place earlier this month, were positive.

“We are using many diverse methods, techniques and tools to ensure that oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf are being conducted in the safest and most environmentally-responsible manner,” said BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich in a statement. “Testing an operator’s ability to activate its sub-sea containment resources is one very important tool. The Spill Drill Program can help us validate that operators are appropriate trained in effective containment deployment. It is a natural extension of our enhanced safety and environmental regulations and standards put in place following the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.” 

The drill tested Petrobras America with a hypothetical blowout experienced by one of its deepwater subsea wells. The table-top exercise specifically tested Petrobras’ ability to assess a subsea well control situation and mobilize the proper subsea containment/intervention equipment in a timely manner. Fictitious weather conditions were provided to the operator during the drill to help them identify the hypothetical trajectory of the spill.

The Marine Well Containment Co. was created by majors including ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips to launch a complete system to handle future subsea blowouts like the one experienced at BP’s Macondo well in 2010.