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BSEE: HWCG Capping Stack Successfully Tested

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

Pemex Ready to Drill in GOM’s Deep Waters

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by  Dow Jones Newswires
Laurence Iliff
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MEXICO CITY – Mexico‘s state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, is ready to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico near the maritime border with the U.S., its head of production said Tuesday.

Pemex has in place high-tech drilling platforms, safety systems and membership in a well-containment group as part of redundant measures to prevent and control an oil leak, Carlos Morales Gil said at a news conference.

Pemex has complied with the requirements of Mexico’s watchdog National Hydrocarbons Commission, or CNH, he added.

“Yes, we’re going to Perdido this year, in a few months,” Morales said, referring to the hydrocarbon formation already being drilled on the U.S. side. “And, yes, we are in compliance with all of the requirements.”

The CNH chief, Juan Carlos Zepeda, said recently that he didn’t think Pemex was prepared for the challenges of drilling deep-water wells–those at depths exceeding 6,000 feet. Zepeda had said that Pemex wasn’t in compliance with the CNH because the oil company hadn’t yet been accepted into a well-containment group.

Zepeda’s warnings followed the Deepwater Horizon blowout, which killed 11 workers in April 2010 and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Pemex had its own blowout in the shallow waters of the Gulf in 1979 that spilled oil for months and fouled beaches in Texas.

Morales said Tuesday that Pemex has detailed seismic information of the Perdido area where it plans to drill, and that the oil monopoly has been training its own people and contracting international crews.

Furthermore, Pemex has received word that it is being accepted into the Helix Well Containment Group, he said, a U.S. consortium that inherited and improved some of the equipment used to cap the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Pemex is leasing three of the current generation of drilling platforms, according to Morales, with multiple safety systems. In the event of a blowout or leaking well, Pemex could drill a relief well relatively quickly because it has the three high-tech platforms in the Gulf and could move one or more.

On Monday, Pemex said it had a net loss of 23.8 billion pesos ($1.7 billion) in the fourth quarter as it paid more to the federal government in taxes and royalties than a year earlier, and had foreign exchange losses as a result of a weaker Mexican peso.

Pemex said sales in the final quarter of the year rose 22.5% from the fourth quarter of 2010 to MXN420.3 billion, thanks to higher world oil prices. The higher crude prices–$104.40 per barrel compared with $70.80 a year ago–were partially offset by lower export volume, which fell 10.5% to 1.339 million barrels a day, Pemex said in a filing with the local stock exchange.

Source

Feds approve Murphy drilling project using Helix emergency equipment

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Cameron Wallace, left, and Eric Poller, a subsea engineer for Helix Well Ops, look at a new oil spill-containment system developed by Houston’s Helix Energy Solutions. (Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle)

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Federal regulators on Monday issued a permit to the first offshore drilling operation planning to rely on a Houston company’s cap-and-flow containment system in case of a disaster.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave the permit to Murphy Exploration & Production Co., allowing the firm to drill a sidetrack well at its Thunder Hawk field about 150 miles southeast of New Orleans.

Other companies have successfully submitted oil spill response plans that would rely on the capping stack developed by Helix Well Containment Group or a separate system devised by the Marine Well Containment Co. But Murphy is the first firm to win regulators’ sign off for an emergency response plan involving Helix’s full flowback system.

The cap-and-flow system caps the well and contains any additional flowing oil in case it is out of control. The entire system involves a capping stack installed on the well head and a flowback system designed to direct the crude to vessels floating overhead.

Although some wells require only the containment system, the cap-and-flow equipment is geared toward operations with higher pressure. Regulators say the cap-and-flow program can help maintain the integrity of an underwater well in cases where the capping stack alone might not do the trick.

The Helix cap-and-flow system is capable of sending 55,000 barrels of oil and 95 million cubic feet of gas per day to the floating ships.

Separately, Helix is asking the Obama administration for a license to provide its containment equipment in case of a spill from offshore drilling in Cuban waters. The Spanish company Repsol is set to begin drilling a deep-water exploratory well north of the island nation — just 50 miles from south Florida — in December or January.

Helix spokesman Cameron Wallace said the ultimate scope of services that would be offered is still under consideration “and no firm commitments have yet been made.”

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba generally bars U.S. companies from exporting equipment and services to it, but American firms can get special approval from the Treasury Department.

“We believe that it is important to make proven solutions, similar to our Helix Fast Response System, available for any drilling project that could potentially impact the nation’s coastlines,” Wallace said. “Helix’s goal is to make some of these spill containment technologies available while fully complying with federal trade regulations.”

Source

Helix seeks to provide capping stack in case of Cuba drill accident

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Washington (Platts)

Helix Energy Solutions Group is talking to US officials about providing a capping stack to Repsol to respond to any blowout and spill from its deepwater well off Cuba‘s coast, the company confirmed Friday.

Helix would have to secure special licenses from the Commerce Department to export technology to Cuba as well as permission from the Treasury Department for its personnel to travel to Cuban waters to assist in responding to a blowout.

While the company would not specifically say it had applied for those licenses, spokesman Cameron Wallace did say that Helix was “currently engaged with relevant US regulatory agencies regarding the possibility of providing spill containment solutions for use in Cuban waters. The ultimate scope of services to be offered is still under consideration, and no firm commitments have yet been made,” Wallace said.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security has already issued licenses for the use of some equipment, including booms and skimmers, by US companies in Cuban waters, Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Bromwich told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the Treasury and Commerce departments are reviewing applications for licenses to provide a subsea well containment system, remotely operated vehicles and intervention vessels in case of a massive blowout and spill.

Helix already owns a deepwater capping stack, one of two that are part of the Helix Well Containment Group, a consortium of companies drilling in the US Gulf of Mexico. The two stacks, one of which is owned by HWCG, are rated to a depth of 10,000 feet and are staged for use by any of the member companies in case of a major oil spill.

Wallace said Helix would build a third capping stack, designed to meet the specific parameters of Repsol’s Cuban well, if it secures the necessary permissions.

“The goal of the operation is to protect the nation’s coastlines,” Wallace said. “We need to be able to act in the event that our coasts are threatened and this is one means of doing that.”
While the capping stack would initially be designed and built for the Repsol well, it would be available for other projects in the future, Wallace said.

Gary Gentile, gary_gentile@platts.com

Source

USA: HWCG Chooses Sonardyne Acoustics for New GoM Well Containment Response System

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Sonardyne’s wideband acoustic monitoring technology has been selected to play a key role in a new, emergency well containment system built by Trendsetter Engineering Inc. for the Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG).

The Helix Well Containment Group’s capping stack is the most advanced well response system in the world and was built by Trendsetter Engineering. The Sonardyne acoustic monitoring system is clearly visible on the upper left of the structure.

HWCG is a consortium of 24 operators in the Gulf of Mexico who have come together with the common goal of expanding capabilities and pooling technical expertise to quickly and comprehensively respond in the event of a deepwater well control incident.

The new emergency well response system comprises an intervention capping stack that would be placed over a damaged well to stop its flow. Its advanced design makes it capable of capturing and processing up to 55,000 barrels of oil per day and 95 million cubic feet of natural gas per day at surface pressures of up to 10,000 psig.

During an emergency, the supplied Sonardyne data acquisition system would be used to remotely monitor pressure and temperature sensors fitted to the capping stack. The system consists of a Surface Command Unit, intelligent Deep Acoustic Remote Transducers (DARTs) and a Subsea Electronics Module (SEM) that is capable of transmitting data at high speed to the surface for immediate analysis.

Mario Lugo, president of Trendsetter Engineering said, “The performance of Sonardyne’s wideband signal technology during the Macondo incident was a key factor for its selection. The technology was shown to work reliably in areas of extreme subsea noise. This is now the second time we have worked with Sonardyne on a system of this nature.”

The intervention capping stack will be continuously maintained by Trendsetter’s technical experts at its facilities in North Houston, where it will remain on-call for immediate deployment in the unlikely event that a deepwater well’s blowout preventer (BOP) fails to operate as designed.

Original Article

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