DOT: Industry still learning lessons from Macondo

BP is sharing its experiences on the deepwater Macondo well incident as widely as possible, said a spokesman at today's panel discussion at DOT.

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Offshore staff

AMSTERDAM -- BP is sharing its experiences on the deepwater Macondo well incident as widely as possible, said a spokesman at today's panel discussion at DOT.

Paul Tooms, VP of Engineering, BP Exploration and Production, said one of the main lessons to be learned was that "each problem demands its own solution. This well blew out for all sorts of reasons. Next time, it could be a device dropped on a flowline." Whatever may happen, he added, the industry would need to have kit in place that would facilitate an innovative solution.

"Macondo was a very large and complex incident. It was a pretty prolific well, and we couldn't shut it in for 85 days because the riser fell over, crimping access to the top of the wellhead. That in turn prevented access to the BOP, which wouldn't operate when we got there. And there were issues from the US administration over the risks of a shut-in making things worse."

By and large the response effort was sound, he claimed. "We had multiple work fronts to prevent oil from reaching beaches - we were largely successful, not too much oil got that far".

One of the dilemmas for the company was whether to bring in a sealed containment system or an unsealed collection system. The latter option had to be adopted for the majority of the 85 days the incident lasted, he added, as it was not possible to latch onto the wellhead and create a seal,

Another problem BP faced was how to calculate the flow rate from the Macondo well. "We had little information to go on that deep down. One thing that will come out of this is that we would probably want a bit more instrumentation in future on BOPs.

Tooms said the remedial effort eventually occupied 1,500 personnel offshore, four FPSOs, various dive support vessels and up to 16 ROVs. At one point two seismic vessels also sailed through towing streamers - all of which added up to a huge amount of simultaneous operations (SIMOPS), "he pointed out.

Jope Coppes. Vice Chairman of OGP and Coordinator of the Global Industry Response Group, formed in July as a result of Macondo, said his association had discussed the fall-out of the incident with regulators, finance institutions, the UN and others around the world.

OGP has assembled specialist teams to provide prevention, response and intervention solutions to future incidents. But Coppes cautioned: “I'm not sure a single global containment system could or should be designed." Certain factors affecting Macondo might not apply outside the Gulf of Mexico, he explained. In any case, he said, "getting a solution may prove easier than getting all companies aligned on it."

Coppes said his teams were talking to oil company associations and response groups in Europe, Brazil, Indonesia and Australia about their programs. "We want to work together and identify gaps, but we also want to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts."

Philip Smith of Shell said the new Marine Well Containment System his company was working on, in partnership with ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, would be designed for mobilization in the Gulf of Mexico within 24 hours. Other GoM operators will be encouraged to participate in this new organization, he added.

Smith highlighted the effectiveness of chemical dispersants in the response campaign, and for use in future incidents, especially at the sea floor. "Subsea dispersants effectively tackle the energy of the escaping oil at source, and that oil undergoes further dispersal as it risers through the water column."

Andy Radford, Senior Policy Advisor - Offshore Issues at the American Petroleum Institute pointed out that despite the recent lifting of the deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf, no new permits had been awarded. "That's to do with issues over containment and response," he claimed. Radford added that one of the US Administration's suggestions to the industry been to create an Ocean Energy Institute to devise future control/containment solutions, although he was skeptical over whether this would come about.


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