OSPRAG commissions design of oil well capping device

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The UK Oil Spill Prevention and Response and Advisory Group (OSPRAG) is to commission the design of a capping device that has the potential to help contain any oil spill off the coast of the UK.

OSPRAG was set up in May to learn from the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico and to ensure that the UK oil and gas industry’s offshore practices and procedures continue to be robust and fit for purpose.

In July, it asked engineering services company Wood Group Kenny to develop and evaluate possible well containment and capping solutions for UK offshore use. Of the three design concepts put forward, OSPRAG has now opted to progress with a modular device that could effectively close off or ’cap’ a well in the event of a blowout, preventing oil from leaking into the environment.

The recommended design is considered to be the most appropriate solution given the weather conditions typically found in the UK, and specifically to the west of Shetland.

Mark McAllister, chairman of OSPRAG and chief executive of Fairfield Energy, said: ’This represents another step towards strengthening the UK’s oil spill response capability. We have already improved the UK’s capacity to capture oil leaking from an uncontrolled well with the arrival earlier this month of two containment devices from the Gulf of Mexico. These were developed by BP in response to the Macondo incident and are now based in Southampton with OSRL, the industry’s shared oil spill response organisation.’

The development of the new capping device is seen as the next phase in providing additional containment solutions. The design could be installed at various points of the subsea well head, the blowout preventer or lower marine riser assembly to stop the flow of oil and buy valuable time for engineers to develop a permanent solution for killing a well.

The detailed design and procurement phase will be project-led by BP, working closely with the OSPRAG technical review group and other UK operators. The estimated time it will take to manufacture the device is currently 11 months.