New company plans to contain blowouts


MORGAN CITY — A new company is working to ensure that another well blowout in the Gulf, if one ever happens, won’t be the disaster that the Deepwater Horizon was.

Marine Well Containment Co. CEO Marty Massey gave members of the Atchafalaya Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute an overview of the company’s brief history and its efforts to create and build equipment.

“Our mission is to be ready to respond at any time,” Massey said. “We want to be the leader in containment … (and) constantly expand our capabilities.”

MWCC was started after the Macondo blowout in 2010 through a partnership of oil companies. ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips initially joined to pledge up to $250 million each toward the $1 billion startup cost; the partnership now also includes Apache, Anadarko, BP, BHP Billiton, Hess and Statoil as equal partners with the founders.

The company “is set up not to make a profit,” Massey said, but will collect money to pay employees, conduct training and upgrade and add to equipment stocks through memberships. Petrobras has contracted as a client of MWCC so far, and Massey said the Brazilian state oil company is a prospective partner due to its sizable presence in American offshore territory.

The company, though young, is already serving well for the American oil industry. Drillers seeking permits for offshore wells now must provide a plan for containment in case of a blowout; 35 permits approved since a moratorium on drilling was lifted have cited arrangements with MWCC, Massey said.

Key to the company’s efforts are capping stacks to set atop blown-out wells to stem the flow of crude oil. The stacks, 30 feet tall and weighing 100 tons, could close off the well or work with pumps to send the oil to modular capture vessels on the surface.

While MWCC would provide equipment from storage sites yet to be determined, the companies in charge of the wells would direct their own responses to blowouts, including removing debris, moving equipment to the site, installing the equipment and refurbishing it when finished.

A large role for remotely operated vehicles could be a boon for companies such as Oceaneering if another blowout occurs. Massey said containment and equipment installation plans for many of the newly permitted wells call for up to 20 ROVs to be used to survey the well and surrounding areas if there is a blowout.

Though other countries and companies, such as Petróleos Mexicanos, have made overtures to MWCC, the company is restricting its reach to American waters.

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