Oil Company Representatives Announce Plans for Greater Well Blowout Response

August 5, 2010

Amidst possible intentions from the Obama administration to remove the current deepwater drilling moratorium before it expires November 30th, four major oil companies – ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and ConocoPhillips – recently announced plans for an improved oil disaster response system.

At a recent public hearing held at Tulane University, engineering officials from the previously-mentioned four oil companies announced that within 6 months, they will unveil their plans for a $1 billion system to contain oil well blowouts. They are also predicting that a new response system for the entire offshore oil industry will be completed within 18 months.

The system will be capable of handling various types of disasters, and is predicted to be able to contain up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day as much as 10,000 feet below sea level.  These volume numbers are greater that of the BP oil spill, and are set at twice the depth of the current blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael Bromwich, Director of the new Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement, was the chief official present at the hearing.  He was reportedly impressed by the companies’ plans, calling them “unprecedented’.  He also added that this initiative by the 4 companies have made it more likely that the moratorium will be pulled before the previously-announced time period of 6 months.

A panel of local leaders was present during the hearing to urge Bromwich to end the drilling ban immediately.

Bromwich is currently undertaking a 6-week series of forums in nine cities.  He feels it is unlikely that the deepwater ban would be lifted before he completes his tour.

Two of the other planned forums will be held in Santa Barbara, California, and in Anchorage, Alaska.  The response for renewed offshore drilling may not be as great in either location.  After residents of Santa Barbara, California endured the effects of a well blowout in 1969, offshore drilling in California has not been allowed to continue.  Alaska is still seeing the negative effects from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil-tanker spill, and thus has continued drilling only a limited basis.

All four companies, led by ExxonMobil, are currently banding together to form a non-profit entity named the Marine Well Containment Company with its purpose to maintain, update, and operate the proposed system.

The final response system appears to be extremely similar to what BP eventually used to stop the Gulf of Mexico blown-out well.  However, the proposed plan would reportedly include technology that doesn’t currently exist.

The new partnership’s general containment plan includes a sub-sea capping stack which would be placed on top of a failed blowout preventer.  Tubes connected to the stack would then pump the oil to several manifolds on the sea floor, and then to risers floating on the surface which would be emptied into large tankers.