OSPRAG picks concept for well-capping device

The UK group formed to improve the offshore producing industry’s spill prevention and response has selected a concept for a modular well-capping device adapted to harsh weather.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Oct. 20
-- The UK group formed to improve the offshore producing industry’s spill prevention and response has selected a concept for a modular well-capping device adapted to harsh weather.

The Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG) will commission detailed designs for one of three concepts developed for it by Wood Group Kenny.

OSPRAG is a group of industry, government, and trade union representatives formed in May in response to the Macondo blowout and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It asked Wood Group Kenny in July to propose well-capping and containment concepts for the UK offshore.

BP PLC, operator of the Macondo well, will be project leader for the detailed design and procurement phase of work on the well-capping device. It will work with the OSPRAG technical review group and other UK operators.

Oil & Gas UK, the offshore trade group under which OSPRAG formed, estimated manufacturing time for the device at 11 months but said, “There is a possibility of shortening this once the final equipment configuration is agreed and priorities are set.”

It said the chosen concept for a modular device able to cap a well after a blowout accommodates weather typical off the UK, “and especially to the west of Shetland.”

Buying time
Mark McAllister, OSPRAG chairman and chief executive of Fairfield Energy Ltd., said, “The design allows installation at various points of the subsea wellhead, the blowout preventer, or lower marine riser assembly to stop the flow of oil and buy valuable time for engineers to develop a permanent solution for killing the well.”

Brian Kinkead, the OGUK representative who leads the OSPRAG technical review group, said, “Metocean constraints can become a concern, particularly west of Shetland where wind and sea conditions can be severe. The cap design therefore needs to be compact, relatively low weight, and flexible for ease of handling and installation in short operational weather windows.”

An OGUK statement said the device probably will involve adapters, connectors, a main body with two gate valves, choke and kill manifolds, and a variable-flow ported sub or cap with an overall system rating for 15,000 psi working pressure.

The group said the device could be deployed in sea states as great as 5 m, depending on the vessel. Capping could be achieved within 20-30 days of the blowout, depending on weather and other conditions at the well site.

Earlier this month, OSPRAG received two containment devices developed in the Gulf of Mexico by BP after the Macondo accident. The devices are based in Southampton with the industry cooperative Oil Spill Response Ltd.

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