Deepwater well containment exercise completed

A test deployment of well control equipment was completed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Noble Energy Inc., and the Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG) to assess Noble’s ability to respond to a potential subsea blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

James Watson, BSEE director, said HWCG’s capping stack met pressurization requirements.

The unannounced deployment drill, undertaken at the direction of BSEE, began Apr. 30 to test the 20-ft tall, 146,000-lb piece of equipment, which is similar to one that stopped the flow of oil from the deepwater Macondo well blowout incident in 2010. The blowout resulted in a massive oil spill.

During the recent drill, the HWCG capping stack was deployed in more than 5,000 ft of water, lowered to a simulated wellhead (a preset parking pile) on the ocean floor, connected to the wellhead, and pressurized to 8,400 psi (OGJ Online, May 1, 2013).

BSEE engineers, inspectors, and oil spill response specialists are evaluating the test 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.

John Lewis, Noble Energy senior vice-president, said a quick, effective response to a deepwater well containment drill “was enabled by collaborative communication and planning between the industry and regulatory agencies.”

“BSEE, the US Coast Guard, Louisiana Offshore Coordinator’s Office, and Noble Energy brought unique perspectives together in a Unified Command structure to achieve a shared goal,” Lewis said, adding that “all objectives were met.”

In accordance with the plan, all 15 HWCG member companies were notified.

Since the Macondo incident and subsequent sinking of Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible, BSEE has implemented offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms. This deepwater containment drill tested one critical component of enhanced drilling safety requirements.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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