The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Noble Energy, Inc. and the Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG) announced Tuesday the successful completion of a full-scale deployment of critical well control equipment to assess Noble Energy’s ability to respond to a potential subsea blowout in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
BSEE Director James Watson confirmed that the HWCG capping stack deployed for the exercise met the pressurization requirements of the drill scenario, marking successful completion of the exercise.
The unannounced deployment drill, undertaken at the direction of BSEE, began April 30 to test the HWCG capping stack system – a 20-feet tall, 146,000-pound piece of equipment similar to the one that stopped the flow of oil from the Macondo well following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010. During this exercise, the capping stack was deployed in more than 5,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Once on site, the system was lowered to a simulated well head (a pre-set parking pile) on the ocean floor, connected to the well head, and pressurized to 8,400 pounds per square inch.
“Deployment drill exercises like this one are essential to supporting President Obama’s commitment to the safe and responsible development of offshore resources,” said Director Watson. “BSEE continually works to ensure that the oil and natural gas industry is prepared and ready to respond with the most effective equipment and response systems.”
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 natural gas industry.
“The quick and effective response to a deepwater well containment incident, demonstrated during the drill, was enabled by collaborative communication and planning between the industry and regulatory agencies with a focus on solutions-based outcomes,” said John Lewis, senior vice president of Noble Energy. “BSEE, the U.S. Coast Guard, Louisiana Offshore Coordinator’s Office and Noble Energy brought unique perspectives together in a Unified Command structure to achieve a shared goal. Through excellent coordination within the Incident Command System structure that included elevating the Source Control Chief to report directly to Unified Command, the dedication of hundreds of people and activation of the HWCG rapid response system, all objectives were met.”
“HWCG’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to a call from Noble Energy and every operator in our consortium is made possible by a combination of the mutual aid agreement committed to by each consortium member and the contracts we have in place for equipment that is staffed and working in the Gulf each day,” said Roger Scheuermann, HWCG Commercial Director. “Mutual aid enables members to draw upon the collective technical expertise, assets and resources of the group in the event of an incident. Utilizing staffed and working vessels, drilling and production equipment helps ensure there is no down time for staffing or testing equipment readiness in a crisis situation.”
In accordance with the plan, all 15 member companies were activated for this incident through the HWCG notification system.
For the safety of personnel and equipment, a Unified Command comprised of BSEE, the US Coast Guard, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinators Office and Noble Energy decided to temporarily hold operations May 2 and 3 due to rough weather over the Gulf of Mexico. The safety of personnel remained a top priority throughout the exercise.
Since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, BSEE has worked to implement the most aggressive and comprehensive offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms in the nation’s history. This deepwater containment drill tested one critical component of enhanced drilling safety requirements.
Press Release, May 8, 2013: Source
Under the Technology License Agreement, BP will make available technical information that PEMEX E&P, one of four subsidiaries of PEMEX, can use, in addition to PEMEX E&P initiatives already in place, if it decides to build and maintain its own well capping system for use in Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition, BP has agreed to conduct workshops in Houston to brief PEMEX E&P on the technical information and operational aspects of the system, as well as to introduce PEMEX E&P specialists to key vendors and fabricators that BP used to develop its global deepwater well cap and tooling package.
“The agreement marks another step forward in PEMEX E&P’s ongoing efforts to help protect the rich Gulf of Mexico environment in which we operate, as well as to apply state-of-the-art technology as we develop Mexico’s deepwater oil and natural gas resources,” said Carlos Morales, president of PEMEX Exploration and Production.
Richard Morrison, BP’s Head of Global Deepwater Response, said the agreement underscores BP’s commitment to sharing lessons learned during and following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and response.
“Today’s announcement builds on our commitment and the work we have done — and continue to do — to help advance global deepwater response capabilities around the world,” he said.
“We are pleased to provide PEMEX E&P with access to our recent technological innovation and information so that operators in both the USA and Mexico areas of the Gulf of Mexico can be equipped to respond to a subsea well control incident in the Gulf of Mexico.”
BP’s global deepwater well cap is a 100-ton stack of valves that can be lowered onto a leaking well to halt the flow. The system can operate in 10,000 feet of water and is rated to pressures of 15,000 pounds per square inch. Stored in Houston, it can be sent by heavy-lift aircraft to any country where BP operates in a matter of days.
Under the Technology License Agreement, BP will share at no cost to PEMEX E&P technical information on BP’s capping stack, and PEMEX E&P has agreed to make any future advancements to this well-capping technology available at no cost to BP. BP will retain intellectual property rights, so it can continue to share the plans with others.
BP, which has had a presence in Mexico for around 50 years, has collaborated with PEMEX E&P through a variety of non-commercial technology, scientific and training mutual cooperation agreements over the last decade. Those have resulted in hundreds of workshops, seminars and exchanges to share best practices and technological expertise.
- Pemex Signs Deal to Use BP’s Well-Capping Technology in Gulf (ibtimes.com)
- Mexico Announces New Significant Crude Oil Discovery in Gulf of Mexico (hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)