OSPRAG approves UK well capping project

OSPRAG, the UK’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response and Advisory Group, is commissioning detailed designs for a full/partial pressure capping device.

Offshore staff

LONDON -- OSPRAG, the UK’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response and Advisory Group, is commissioning detailed designs for a full/partial pressure capping device.

According to industry association Oil & Gas UK, this could emerge as a critical element of the UK offshore oil and gas industry’s oil spill response contingency plans.

OSPRAG was formed in May following the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico, to ensure that the UK’s offshore practices and procedures continue to be sound and in line with requirements.

In July it commissioned Wood Group Kenny to develop and evaluate well containment and capping solutions for use in UK waters. Of the three concepts submitted, OSPRAG has picked out a modular device designed to close off a well in the event of a blow-out. It considers this the most appropriate solution for the UK’s weather conditions, particularly west of Shetland.

Mark McAllister, chairman of OSPRAG and chief executive of Fairfield Energy, said: “We have already improved the UK’s capacity to capture oil leaking from an uncontrolled well with the arrival earlier this month of two containment devices from the Gulf of Mexico. These were developed by BP in response to the Macondo incident and are now based in Southampton with OSRL, the industry’s shared oil spill response organization.”

“The development of the capping device is the next phase. The design allows installation at various points of the subsea well head, the BOP or lower marine riser (LMRP) assembly to stop the flow of oil and buy valuable time for engineers to develop a permanent solution for killing the well.”

“This work can also help inform the development of a longer-term regional or global (non-US) response which is being co-ordinated by the Global Industry Response Group under OGP (the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers).”

Brian Kinkead of Oil & Gas UK, head of the OSPRAG technical review group responsible for developing the capping concepts, said: “Time is of the essence for minimizing environmental impacts when bringing a well under control. 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.”

Oil & Gas UK said the system will likely employ a variety of adapters, connectors, a main body incorporating two gate valves, choke and kill manifolds, and a variable- flow ported sub/cap with an overall system rating for 15,000 psi (1,034 bar) working pressure. The device could be deployed in sea states of up to 5 m (16.4 ft), depending on the vessel used, and capping could be completed within 20 – 30 days of an incident, depending on weather and well site conditions.

BP will lead the detailed design and procurement phase in close co-operation with the OSPRAG technical review group and other UK operators. The estimated manufacturing time is 11 months, but this time-scale could be shortened once the final equipment configuration has been agreed.


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