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Below is an article written about the 2012 Deepwater Technical Symposium.

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OFFSHORE DRILLING: Spill containment systems are fully operational, company execs say

 Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter

(Friday, August 17, 2012)

NEW ORLEANS -- A complete system of technologies and techniques to stop and clean up another potential oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is up and running, the heads of two well containment companies declared here yesterday. A drill conducted in July many miles offshore by the Marine Well Containment Co. (MWCC) went off without a hitch and met the approval of the industry and government regulators, that company's chief said. And while no similar exercise has been attempted yet by the smaller Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG), many in the industry expect one will occur sometime soon. In the meantime, desk simulations and the testing of forward deployed capping stacks and other subsea equipment that will be needed in the event of a leak has that company's CEO confident that it is ready to respond if needed.

At the final day of a deepwater technology symposium here hosted by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, MWCC Chief Executive Martin Massey and HWCG head David Coatney provided industry insiders with an overview of where well containment capacity stands as drilling activity ramps up in the Gulf of Mexico. Both groups have spent two years organizing their respective nonprofit organizations, and developing new technologies and comprehensive action plans with help from the federal government, the American Petroleum Institute and others. As Gulf drilling activity approaches pre-Macondo well blowout levels, both leaders told oil and gas company officials they are ready to lend a hand should another disaster occur."Our mission at MWCC is to be continuously ready to respond to a well control incident in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico," Massey said. "I can tell you that we have now effectively validated our ability to achieve that mission, and that is very good news for our industry." During a presentation, Massey provided a step-by-step explanation of a mock well-blowout drill held with Royal Dutch Shell PLC last month.

The drill simulated a Macondo-like blowout and catastrophic loss of well control at the Walker Ridge 536 offshore site, about 200 miles south of Louisiana, lying beneath 6,950 feet of water. Massey said MWCC estimates that it can deploy its capping stack system to a blowout site within seven days of the start of an incident. The July drill confirmed that, he said, and MWCC successfully responded to a sudden report of a spill. Government overseers gave MWCC and its members a one-week window within which they were to expect a spill report but were not told precisely what day the drill would begin. When it did happen, MWCC moved swiftly to pass its capping stack off to Shell, while both mobilized contractors to fix it to the wellhead and stop the simulated leak. Designed to perform at 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure, MWCC's stack held up under a 10,800 psi test for 20 minutes without incident, Massey said. "It was a tremendous accomplishment for our organization, and I could not be more pleased with the successful outcome," he said. "We really practiced this just like it was a real event."

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EnergyWire provides comprehensive coverage of the political, legal and business issues surrounding the rapidly evolving unconventional energy landscape.  This article has been reprinted with permission by Environment & Energy Publishing.

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