Rapid CUBE is a deepwater blowout intervention tool designed to capture the hydrocarbons in close proximity of the leak, minimizing environmental consequences of the spill for the time necessary to regain control of the well. The system does not require any interface with the wellhead or BOP and is applicable to the most subsea incident scenarios. The design process of Rapid CUBE took advantage of lessons learned from the history of major incidents, specifically addressing deepwater operations and the weaknesses showed by open systems, such as hydrate blockage and very high seawater intake. The operating principle is based on quick separation of liquid and gas phases of the blowout, with the liquid hydrocarbons pumped to surface and gas released subsea. Innovative solutions had to be devised to overcome a number of technical challenges, such as the control of the gas/liquid interface inside the separator. From an engineering point of view, logistic requirements were among major design drivers to allow the system to be air-freightable and shipped worldwide in a few days.
The paper outlines the development of Rapid CUBE, from an innovative idea to industrial application. Rapid CUBE is now stored in its logistic base in Sicily.
In the last seven years the Oil&Gas industry, offshore drilling sector in particular, had to cope with the heavy heritage of the Deepwater Horizon incident, as will probably be the case also for some years in the future. The number of studies analyzing the independent causes, the technical, human and organizational factors as well as their combination grew in time, pushed by government agencies, academic institutions or independent firms. Industry was very responsive and investigation of the lessons learned came in parallel with the development of technical solutions, which of course took step from the results of the exceptional effort put in place during the emergency. In time, the capping stack technology, which allowed to stop the leak at the Macondo site, has been optimized and evolved in a dedicated business sector, with both oil companies and third party service providers as players.