Government, industry examine oil spill preparedness

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Sept. 23 -- The oil and gas industry developed containment technology to deal with an oil spill in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and new collaboration between industry and the US government is needed to assure an adequate response system in the future, speakers agreed at a meeting in Washington, DC.

Regulators, government scientists, and industry executives met at a forum hosted by the departments of the Interior and Energy. An Apr. 20 blowout of the Macondo oil and gas well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 resulted in a massive spill in the gulf. BP PLC operated the Macondo well.

The blowout caused an explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible, killing 11 people. The Deepwater Horizon sank on Apr. 22.

Energy Sec. Steven Chu said he sees the need for a redesign effort focused on diagnostic tools, warning systems, instrumentation and sensors, and other equipment to improve the safety of offshore drilling.

Engineers and scientists spent time, especially early in the response efforts, trying to figure out the state of valves in the failed Deepwater Horizon BOP, he said.

“A reengineering job could have saved 10 days of angst,” Chu said. “This is an industrywide issue…. There was no indicator on the BOP that said what’s the condition of all the valves.” Chu advised the oil and gas industry to look toward the weapons industry and the aviation industry for ideas. “One doesn’t really have to reinvent a lot of things.”

Spill preparedness
Interior Sec. Ken Salazar said efforts to kill the Macondo well involved “the best and brightest minds” from across industry and government. “It required trial and error where there was little room for error,” he said.

“Neither industry or the government had the preparedness to deal with the disaster in the gulf,” Salazar said.

ExxonMobil Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson said government and industry need to develop more-effective ways to work together. He said industry is dedicated to operational safety and integrity.

“There is a need to enhance preparedness,” Tillerson said. ExxonMobil is operator of the Marine Well Containment Co. (MWCC), a nonprofit joint venture that is building an equipment inventory and a rapid response system for future gulf oil spills (OGJ Online, July 21, 2010).

ExxonMobil, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC pooled $1 billion to form MWCC. BP joined MWCC and agreed to make its underwater well containment equipment available to all oil and gas companies operating in the gulf (OGJ Online, Sept. 20, 2010).

National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the government and industry need to jointly design containment systems that can be integrated with the way the oil is produced in the gulf.

Floating production, storage, and offloading vessels along with floating risers and shuttle tankers had to be brought from other countries to help divert oil from spilling into the gulf. This equipment had to be obtained from elsewhere to deal with the Maconodo spill because oil production in the gulf typically is delivered to shore by pipelines.

“We are going to be working in various depths,” Allen said of gulf drilling efforts. “We need to have flexibility in response systems that can adjust to different water depths.”

Allen also called for renewed investments in oil spill research and development efforts, adding that industry and the government allowed investments in oil spill research to wither years after the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989.

He was involved in setting up procedures and an inventory of oil spill equipment as required by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“We basically got complete amnesia about R&D—to really fund it and stay ahead at the same time that deepwater drilling” technology progressed, Allen said.

BP’s experience
Andrew Inglis, chief executive of BP Exploration & Production, said containing the Macondo blowout presented “a huge challenge” even though BP had spill response plans in place that conformed to regulatory requirements.

“However, no one anticipated an event where this particular series of mechanical and human failures would occur,” Inglis said. “The Macondo well is at a water depth of 5,067 ft. This is by no means the deepest water depth that has been drilled in the Gulf of Mexico, but it did pose a unique set of logistical and operational challenges—temperatures are less than 40° F., and seafloor pressures greater than 2,200 psi. At these pressures and temperatures, methane gas flowing from the well was transformed into ice-like crystals known as hydrates, which complicated containment efforts.”

He said a 5,000-ft riser connecting the well to the Deepwater Horizon fell to the seabed and was bent and breached in several locations.

“The first challenge in the early days of the response was to survey the status of this equipment and locate the source of the oil and gas flowing into the sea,” Inglis said.

He said industry has now assembled subsea containment equipment that it did not have in place for the gulf on Apr. 20. Inglis said industry also has experience in using these key elements, which include:

• An inventory of immediately deployable open and closed containment systems proven at depth with associated operating procedures.

• Proven systems for processing and transporting contained oil including FPSOs, free-standing risers, and flexible subsea flowlines. This includes equipment to reduce downtime in the event of hurricanes.

• Demonstrated methods to mitigate hydrate formation.

• Techniques for system diagnostics and advanced surveillance (for instance, digital radiography at depth).

• Plans and organizational models for source containment.

• Enhanced technologies and procedures to drill deepwater relief wells.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

MARKET WATCH: Oil prices decline as US crude inventories post first gain in 9 weeks

07/01/2015 Oil prices on July 1 surrendered much of their gains from the day before after the release of a government report showing the first rise in US crud...

FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

07/01/2015 The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar b...
White Papers

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

When Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Predictive Analytics in your digital oilfield - Optimize Production Yield and Reduce Operational Costs

When Tue, Jul 7, 2015

Putting predictive analytics to work in your oilfield can help you anticipate failures, plan and schedule work in advance, eliminate emergency work and catastrophic failures, and at the same time you can optimize working capital and improve resource utilization.  When you apply analytic capabilities to critical production assets it is possible to reduce non-productive time and increase your yield.

Learn how IBM's analytics capabilities can be applied to critical production assets with the goal of reducing non-productive time, increasing yield and reducing operations costs.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Cognitive Solutions for Upstream Oil and Gas

Fri, Jun 12, 2015

The oil & gas sector is under pressure on all sides. Reserves are limited and it’s becoming increasingly expensive to find and extract new resources. Margins are already being squeezed in an industry where one wrong decision can cost millions. Analyzing data used in energy exploration can save millions of dollars as we develop ways to predict where and how to extract the world’s massive energy reserves.

This session with IBM Subject Matter Experts will discuss how IBM Cognitive Solutions contribute to the oil and gas industry using predictive analytics and cognitive computing, as well as real time streaming for exploration and drilling.

register:WEBCAST


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected