A plan to build and deploy a rapid response system that will be available to capture and contain oil in the event of a potential future underwater well blowout in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico was announced in late July by Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell.
The new system will be flexible and able to begin mobilization within 24 hours and can be used on a wide range of well designs and equipment, oil and natural gas flow rates and weather conditions. It will be engineered to be used in water depths up to 10,000 ft and have initial capacity to contain 100,000 bbl/day with potential for expansion.
The companies have committed $1 billion to fund the initial costs of the system. Additional operational and maintenance costs for the subsea and modular processing equipment, contracts with existing operating vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and any potential new vessels that may be constructed will increase this cost commitment.
This system offers key advantages to the current response equipment in that it will be pre-engineered, constructed, tested and ready for rapid deployment in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. It is being developed by a team of marine, subsea and construction engineers from the four companies.
The system will include specially designed subsea containment equipment connected by manifolds, jumpers and risers to capture vessels that will store and offload the oil. Dedicated crews will ensure regular maintenance, inspection and readiness of the facilities and subsea equipment.
The four companies will form a nonprofit organization, the Marine Well Containment Company, to operate and maintain this system. Other companies will be invited and encouraged to participate in this organization.
Work on this containment system is being accelerated to enhance deepwater safety and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 30% of US oil and gas production and supports more than 170,000 American jobs.
The sponsor companies will proceed immediately with the engineering, procurement and construction of equipment and vessels for the system. ExxonMobil will lead this effort on behalf of the four sponsor companies.
The companies are also actively involved in significant industry efforts to improve prevention, well intervention and spill response. This includes rig inspections and implementation of new requirements on BOP certification and well design. The industry has proactively formed multidisciplinary task forces to further develop improved prevention, containment and recovery plans.
The companies have reviewed the system with key officials in the federal administration and congress and will conduct briefings with other key stakeholders.