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BSEE successfully completes deepwater well containment exercise in the Gulf

Posted on 31 July 2012

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has successfully completed the first full-scale deployment of critical well control equipment to exercise the oil and gas industry’s response to a potential subsea blowout in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico. BSEE director James A. Watson confirmed that the capping stack system passed a pressurization test according to the requirements in the scenario, marking the end of the exercise.

The unannounced deployment drill, which was undertaken at the direction of BSEE, began 24 July to test Marine Well Containment Company’s (MWCC) capping stack system, a 30-ft tall, 100-ton piece of equipment similar to the one that stopped the flow of oil from the Macondo well in 2010. During this exercise, the capping stack was deployed from its storage location near Houston to an area in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 200 miles from shore. Once on site, the system was lowered to a simulated well head (a pre-set parking pile) on the ocean floor in nearly 7,000 ft of water, connected to the well head, and then pressurized to 10,000 lbs/sq in.

“This first of its kind exercise reflects BSEE’s full commitment to ensuring that safety and preparedness always come first,” announced Mr Watson. “It’s important to practice these types of deployments so that we spur the industry to think through all of the processes and identify problems in an environment in which we can all learn and improve. If the industry should ever have to deploy this equipment in a real response, we will all be much better prepared as a result of this exercise.”

BSEE engineers, inspectors and oil spill response specialists are evaluating the deployment operations and identifying lessons learned as the bureau continues efforts to improve safety and environmental protection across the offshore oil and gas industry.

Critical lessons like securing mud mats for the subsea accumulator skid (SSAS) are being noted by BSEE and MWCC as teams work toward concluding the exercise deployment. The SSAS provides hydraulic fluid needed to close the ram and associated valves on the capping stack. A successful workaround was used in the exercise and, so far, no critical failures or problems have been noted in the demonstration.

This deepwater containment drill tested one critical component of enhanced drilling safety requirements. For more information about the bureau’s efforts to improve safety and environmental protection, click here

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