Helix Energy outlines oil spill response system

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Feb. 28 -- Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc. has assembled a Helix Fast Response System (HFRS) that some independent producers are citing as their oil spill response plan in applications for offshore drilling permits being filed with state and federal authorities.

The HFRS involves two vessels—the Helix Producer I and the Q4000—both of which were used along with many other vessels in the deepwater Macondo spill response efforts last year. The Producer is a floating production vessel while the Q4000 is a multiservice vessel.

HFRS is separate from the containment system outlined by Marine Well Containment Co., a consortium primarily of oil majors led by ExxonMobil Corp. MWCC’s containment system also is available for companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico (OGJ, Feb. 21, 2011, Newsletter).

BP PLC operated Macondo. An April 2010 blowout resulted in an explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible, killing 11 crew members and resulting in a massive oil spill.

US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar and other federal officials visited Houston on Feb. 25 to meet with both Helix and MWCC for briefings on available spill response systems. Both Helix and MWCC are based in Houston.

Helix signed an agreement with Clean Gulf Associates (CGA) of New Orleans, a nonprofit industry group of independents, making HFRS available for a 2-year term to CGA members in case of a well blow out incident in exchange for a retainer fee.

During a Feb. 24 earnings conference call, Helix executives said Helix also signed separate utilization agreements with 19 CGA member companies specifying day rates to be charged if companies use HFRS.

An initial HFRS is capable of capping a wellhead in 5,600 ft of water and processing up to 10,000 b/d of oil while flaring 15 MMcfd of natural gas. By Mar. 31, Helix executives expect to complete an expanded system that can operate in 8,000 ft of water and process up to 55,000 b/d of oil and flare 95 MMcfd.

The Helix 4000 is capable of transferring oil to the Producer I, which would process the oil and offload it onto other vessels for transport. HFRS also involves a capping stack, Helix executives said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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