A plan to build and deploy a rapid response system that can capture and contain oil in the event of a future underwater well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was unveiled today by Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell.
The new system will be able to be used on a range of well designs and equipment, oil and natural gas flow rates and weather conditions.
It will be engineered to be used in deepwater depths up to 10,000ft and have initial capacity to contain 100,000 barrels a day with potential for expansion.
The companies have committed $1bn (£0.66bn) to fund the initial costs of the system, which will be pre-engineered, constructed, tested and ready for rapid deployment in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. It is being developed by a team of marine, subsea and construction engineers from the four companies.
The system will include specially designed subsea containment equipment connected by manifolds, jumpers and risers to capture vessels that will store and offload the oil. Dedicated crews will ensure regular maintenance, inspection and readiness of the facilities and subsea equipment.
The four companies will form a non-profit organisation, the Marine Well Containment Company, to operate and maintain the new system. Other companies will be invited and encouraged to participate in this organisation.
The companies say that the new containment system will enhance deepwater safety and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 30 per cent of US oil and gas production and supports more than 170,000 jobs in the US.
The sponsor companies will proceed immediately with the engineering, procurement and construction of equipment and vessels for the system, led by a team at ExxonMobil.