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UK Secures Well Capping Device to Strengthen Oil Spill Contingency

15 March 2011

Oil & Gas UK confirms the start of manufacturing of a well capping device which will become a key element of the UK offshore oil and gas industry’s oil spill response contingency plans. Completion of the device is due this summer.

The cap’s construction follows the recommendation of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG), the body set up by the industry, its regulators and trade unions immediately following the blow-out in the Macondo well last April. The design development was overseen by OSPRAG’s Technical Review Group, working with BP, which agreed to project manage the detailed design, procurement and construction phases, and engineering services firm J P Kenny. The device has been commissioned by the industry’s specialist organisation, Oil Spill Response Ltd, and is being built by Cameron Ltd in Leeds.

The cap is modular in design, with specifications which allow it to be deployed in the widest range of possible oil spill scenarios that could typically be encountered in the UK continental shelf, including West of Shetlands. The device, deployable from a multi service vessel, can be attached to various parts of the subsea equipment in order to seal off or ‘cap’ the flow of oil.

The new cap complements other work being carried out by the UK industry in oil spill prevention. It demonstrates the industry’s determination to learn from experience and continuously improve the safety of operations so that risks to people and the environment are reduced.

Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, Malcolm Webb, said: “Having such a contingency device in the UK is important as it allows a quick response in the unlikely event of a well blowout. Our overriding priority remains, however, to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place. There has not been a single blow-out in this country in over 20 years of UK offshore operations and we must ensure that it remains this way. The UK’s regulatory regime, and the safety culture it promotes within our industry, is regarded as world class.”

Archie Smith, chief executive at Oil Spill Response, said: Oil Spill Response Ltd is pleased to support this initiative to improve environmental protection in the UK. We have been at the forefront of oil spill response services for 25 years and will bring a lot of experience to the management and readiness of this device. We hope it is never needed but will remain ready at all times should an incident occur.”

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