UK Energy minister Charles Hendry today praised the engineering skills and industry collaboration which created a £9million subsea capping device.
The unit, the first of less than a handful made globally, was created to seal off an uncontrolled subsea well in the event of a major incident in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico Macondo disaster.
Officially launching the device with Jim House, managing director of operator Apache North Sea, outside the main entrance to Offshore Europe, Mr Hendry said it was a “huge plus” for the UK industry.
“It has been an extraordinary engineering achievement and very reassuring for anyone in the UK,” he said.
“It also shows the benefit of the regulatory approach in the UK. So many countries have a tick-box approach.
Here the pressure is on the industry always to be raising standards.”
The device, designed and built in the UK through an industry partnership, Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG), is rated for deployment in water depths up to 10,000ft on wells producing up to 75,000 barrels per day.
Mr House, chairman of OSPRAG, said there had not been an incident needing such a device in the North Sea in 20 years, reflecting the competence of operators and of the regulatory regime.
However, Mr Hendry said, although the capping device was not built for an incident like the recent Shell Gannet platform leak, lessons should be learned from that incident.
“It was the most serious incident in 10 years, we clearly need to see what we can learn from it,” he said. “We need to find out why it was thought it was under control before it was. We need to find out the cause to make sure other systems are protected from a repetition.”