New oil well safety device unveiled

A new oil well safety device has been unveiled by Energy Minister Charles Hendry. The capping device was designed in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010, […]

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By Vicky Ellis

A new oil well safety device has been unveiled by Energy Minister Charles Hendry. The capping device was designed in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010, which prompted the UK government to reassess its oil spill response measures.

The cap works by shutting in and holding pressure on an uncontrolled well to stop it spilling oil into the marine environment.

OSPRAG, the UK Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group, says the device’s portable size and weight mean it can be deployed quickly from a wide range of vessels. It can operate on subsea wells up to 10,000ft underwater, far deeper than any other wells in the UK Continental Shelf.

James L. House, chair of OSPRAG said: “Despite the fact that there has not been a major loss of well control in the UK in over 20 years of offshore operations, we believe that having such a contingency device here in the UK is essential, as it allows a quick response no matter how unlikely a scenario this is.”

Mr Hendry launched the well cap at the SPE Offshore Europe 2011 conference in Aberdeen.

The new cap comes a fortnight after the oil leak at Shell’s Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea, which is estimated to have spilled over 200 tonnes of oil into the water.