Spill containment company in constant race to keep up with oil boom

Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, August 13, 2013

HOUSTON -- As drilling in the Gulf of Mexico expands well beyond the scale of where it was before the 2010 oil spill, the owner of the world's largest spill containment system is racing to catch up.

Formed two-and-a-half years ago in the aftermath of the Macondo well blowout, the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, the Marine Well Containment Co. has already launched an interim system of response vessels and a 100-ton deepwater well capping stack that's been tested and approved by government regulators. MWCC also has developed a more maneuverable capping stack roughly half that size, designed to be installed in tight spots that the larger stack may not be able to reach.

The young company is promising more milestones this year. Marty Massey, the company's CEO, said MWCC is on track to deliver an expanded well intervention and capping system. Much of the equipment for a scaled-up response plan will be finished and ready to use by the end of 2013, while the rest should be completed early next year.

Massey also said his firm will soon introduce an enhancement of the capabilities of the existing interim system, expanding the range of scenarios it is capable of responding to.

It's part of the ongoing process of watching where the industry and MWCC members are headed in the Gulf of Mexico and building the technology necessary to allow them to get there. Massey indicated that effort will continue well beyond his company's third anniversary in February 2014.

"Some of the equipment is already being delivered," Massey said during an interview at MWCC's offices in north Houston. "But rest assured, there are no wells drilling today that can't be handled with our interim system, because that's the requirement."

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