Deepwater Drilling: Oil Spill Response

May 26th, 2011 | By | Category: Analysis, News and Notes, Environmental Management

Sub-sea Capping Stack from MWCC's Interim System

Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) opened its headquarters in Houston in early May 2011. The office houses the company’s business operations and a dedicated emergency response center that could be activated to respond to a deepwater well control incident in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

MWCC was formed in 2010 when Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell committed to develop by 2012 a containment response system that could operate in 10,000 feet of water and process up to 100,000 barrels of fluid and 200 million cubic feet of gas per day.

The companies committed US$1 billion to fund the initial system costs. Operation and maintenance of the subsea and modular processing equipment, contracts with operating vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and potential new vessels will increase the cost commitment. MWCC’s oil spill response system offers key advantages over previous response equipment because it has been pre-engineered for use in a deep marine environment, has been constructed and tested before an incident takes place, and is ready for rapid deployment in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.   

The system includes specially designed subsea containment equipment connected by manifolds, jumpers and risers to capture vessels that will store and offload the oil. Dedicated crews will ensure regular maintenance, inspection and readiness of the facilities and subsea equipment.


Interim Containment System

An interim response system, available now, is capable of operating in water depths of 8,000 feet. This system can process up to 60,000 barrels of fluid per day. MWCC maintains the interim containment system in a continuous state of readiness. The company holds regular emergency response training and drills involving its 10 member companies and evaluates equipment as technology evolves and members’ needs expand. In the event of a spill, existing resources from MWCC’s member companies could also be mobilized to assist in oil spill containment and response.

MWCC’s Interim Containment System


“Our interim containment response system is the result of strong collaboration among our member companies. We have the equipment, resources and a predefined response plan to execute in the event we are called upon,” said MWCC Chief Executive Officer Marty Massey.

According to MWCC, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) recently observed a function test of a new capping stack that was fabricated for the system and has been actively engaged in reviewing functional specifications and response plans. To date, BOEMRE has approved four well permits citing the MWCC system.


MWCC Member Companies

MWCC includes the following members

  • ExxonMobil
  • Chevron
  • ConocoPhillips
  • Shell
  • BP
  • Apache
  • Anadarko
  • BHP Billiton
  • Statoil
  • Hess

These 10 companies operated approximately 70 percent of deepwater wells drilled in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico between 2007 and 2009.


Related Article in the EHS Journal

Download the Macondo Well Investigation Report


About Marine Well Containment Company

MWCC is a not-for-profit, independent organization committed to improving response capabilities for containing a potential future deepwater well control incident in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Membership is open to all oil and gas operators in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Click here to view an animation depiction of the containment equipment operation.


About the Author

Michael Bittner, CPEA, is an associate partner in the Boston, U.S.A. office of Environmental Resources Management and editor of the EHS Journal. He has more than 20 years of experience in the EHS field, including 17 years of EHS consulting experience and four years as the corporate environmental manager for a U.S. Department of Defense contractor. Mr. Bittner specializes in global EHS solutions including

  • Compliance and management systems auditing.
  • EHS management systems implementation and design.
  • Sustainability solutions.
  • Mergers and acquisitions support.

He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Auditing Roundtable.

Images: Courtesy of MWCC.


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