The tragic events of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill that took place last summer in the Gulf of Mexico shouldn’t have happened. I’ve talked about this issue at length in previous posts, but it bears repeating that our industry’s experience is that when you follow established procedures and practices, incidents like the Deepwater Horizon do not happen – and haven’t happened in more than 14,000 deepwater wells drilled worldwide.
We are still learning the facts surrounding the incident in the Gulf of Mexico. But what we do know is such an incident is avoidable. We also know that precaution must be backed up with preparedness. As an industry, we have a responsibility to enhance response capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico and restore the confidence of the American people that U.S. oil and gas resources can be produced safely while protecting the environment.
Today, we reached another milestone in that process. The newly formed Marine Well Containment Company has completed the initial well containment system proposed last summer, and membership in the company is now open to all operators in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
ExxonMobil has led the development of the interim containment system in partnership with Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell. The team has been working closely with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to ensure that the design meets government requirements.
A key containment system that’s available today is a sub-sea capping stack (at right) – which means it can either shut-in oil or safely transport it to the surface for storage and removal. The interim system is ready to begin deployment within 24 hours of an incident. It can operate in water depths up to 8,000 feet and has storage and processing capacity for up to 60,000 barrels per day of oil and natural gas liquids. That would have been enough to handle the Macondo well blowout.
The Marine Well Containment Company is continuing to work on expanding the capabilities of this initial response system as it completes the full system in 2012. It will be usable in deepwater depths up to 10,000 feet, will be able to contain 100,000 barrels per day, and will include dedicated capture vessels. Guest blogger Sara Ortwein described the details of the full system back in August, and you can take a closer look at the components here.