Abstract

There is little argument that the oil and gas industry landscape is shifting—it is incumbent upon exploration and production (E&P) companies to accurately and reliably predict their forward- looking operating costs. Because of this, organizations should accelerate their efforts toward improving major operational risk management so the next big safety event does not arrive without a robust process in place and appropriate resources available.

The disaster that befell the industry in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in 2010 proved to be a wake-up call for offshore operators who assumed they were adequately prepared to respond to a subsea source-control incident. This major incident was a game changer because of the tragic loss of life, resultant loss of the asset, subsequent pollution, and adverse media coverage. Over the course of the response, more than 28,000 individuals, representing more than 100 companies, were mobilized in response to the incident.

In the days immediately following, operators made a significant investment by forming a Joint Industry Task Force (JITF) to provide containment technology and response capabilities for the unique challenges of capping a subsea well blowout. By calling on existing technology, the JITF was created to enable the industry to react more quickly to an incident. However, because the technology is relatively cumbersome, it is hindered by the availability of suitable aircraft, heavy lifting equipment at an airport, dockside, or a suitable Vessel of Opportunity (VOO) and, therefore, not specifically designed to be moved rapidly. The American Petroleum Institute's (API's) Recommended Practice for Subsea Capping Stacks, known as RP 17W, serves as a guide to improving existing equipment. RP 17W is an industry response to the JITF recommendations to enhance subsea well control and containment. The JITF and others focus on equipment, operating practices, and spill response—essential elements of the industry's comprehensive effort to examine every aspect of its offshore safety systems (Oil & Gas Technology 2014 ). Despite this, some companies still struggle to come to terms with the fundamental shift in deployment practices necessary to build a more complete and accurate response picture and fail to provide the necessary assurance that a robust plan for a major source-control event has been constructed and is being managed.

Mitigating the effects of a subsea blowout by mobilizing heavier conventional capping-stack technology involves a convoluted logistical process that significantly increases response times. Reaction times are measured in weeks, particularly if the incident occurs in a deepwater environment. The underlying logistical issues that prevented a rapid response to the GOM event have not, for the most part, been largely addressed until now; therefore, a development differentia in capping-stack technology is necessary to exact the speed of response that the industry calls for and to meet the expectations of stakeholders and the general public. Ultimately, the deployment response to start the source control to any global location should be measured in just days.

This paper discusses the benefits of a recently developed, truly air-transportable capping-stack system that can be rapidly deployed globally to reduce the time to cap a blowing well from weeks to days.

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