UK's Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG) gave approval to its Technical Review Group (TRG) to proceed with an engineering study to develop new design concepts for well capping and containment. The project forms part of the UK offshore oil and gas industry's comprehensive review of its well control practices and assessment of its readiness to respond to a major oil spill, in light of the events unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.
Brian Kinkead, TRG leader and Oil & Gas UK's supply chain director, said, "We are confident that in the UK we have an effective regulatory regime which has served us well for over twenty years of operations during which time nearly 7,000 wells have been successfully drilled in the UK continental shelf (UKCS). However, we cannot be complacent in the face of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. The TRG is also rigorously assessing the well control and contingencies we have in place here, should such an event occur.
"Drawing on the experiences from the Gulf of Mexico, the TRG has outlined several ways in which an oil spill resulting from a blowout might be capped and contained and will now commission an engineering study to develop the technical and operational feasibility of those options. The engineering consultancy chosen will be guided by the TRG and we expect that this study will be completed within two months, at which time we will decide on the suitability of different contingency equipment and possible improvements to existing systems."
The TRG comprises representatives from oil and gas operating companies, drilling contractors, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Health and Safety Executive (HSE), trade unions and Oil & Gas UK. Well capping and containment is one of several areas of focus for this group.
Mr. Kinkead concluded, "Not only is the TRG assessing our capping and containment options here, we have a strong focus across all our sub-groups on prevention through primary and secondary controls. The TRG is also continuing to monitor the lessons emerging from the Gulf of Mexico incident and ensure that implications for the UKCS are considered within the group's activities. The findings from investigations in all our focus areas will be captured in a formal Oil & Gas UK guidance on well control to be published as soon as the work is completed."
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