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OTC 23691

The Development and Maintenance of an Evergreen Spill Response


Capability in the Gulf of Mexico

Kurt Hurzeler Helix Well Ops U.S. Inc.


RogerScheuermannHelixWellContainmentGroup(HWCG)

Copyright 2012, Offshore Technology Conference


This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 30 April3 May 2012.
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

DuringtheMacondoincidentin2011,overthecourseof135daysBPmobilizedthelargestnumberofboats,
planes,ROVs,specializedvessels,equipmentandpersonneleverusedinaGulfofMexicoemergencyresponse.
Therequirementstocaptureasmuchdischargeaspossiblewhileminimizingtheeffectofoilandother
chemicalsintheenvironment,indeepwaterwithouttraditionalwellcontroloptionshadstretchedthe
technologiesandcapabilitiesoftheglobalindustry.Themethodsapplied,theequipmentandpersonnel
required,theprocedurestobefollowedandthecontingenciestobekeptonhandweredeveloped,appliedand
refinedoverthecourseoftheMacondoresponse.InlateJune2010anindustrytaskforcewasformedtobegin
activelyreviewingresponseoptions.AstheMacondowellcameundercontrolinAugust2010,discussionsof
futureresponserequirementsweretakingplacewithintheindustry.

TwoverydifferentresponsestotheMacondoexperiencearoseintheaftermath.Ononehand,fourlarge
multinationalcompaniescommittedsubstantialfinancialandpersonnelresourcestoaclearresponsebasedon
Macondo.Theproposedresponsesystemwasdefined,deliverydatesweregivenand$1billionUSDwas
committedtotheeffort.Theannouncementwasintendedtoreassureboththepublicandregulatorybodies
thattherewouldbeafixforanysimilarfutureDeepwaterHorizonDisaster.Thisgroupoffourcompanies
fundedtheformationofanLLCcalledtheMarineWellContainmentCompany(MWCC).
Theimprovements,inadditiontofasterresponseandpreplanningwerefocusedonbiggerequipmentwith
greatercapacityforvolumeandpressure.Thisisaresponsebasedonafixedconceptoftheproblemanda
systemtocontrolthatspecificproblem.ThekeyassetsidentifiedweremultiplelargeDPtankersforthecapture
andstorageofwellflowcombinedwithprebuilt,stagedprocesstrainstobemobilizedineventofemergency.In
additiontheMWCCwouldstagefreestandingrisers,flexiblehoses,dispersantdeliverysystems,subsea

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manifolds,cappingstacks,DPtankersandprocessingtrainsdesignedtohandleabroadrangeofmixed
hydrocarbon,gasandwaterflowsathighvolumeandhighpressure.Thisequipmentwouldbestagedonshore
inconstantreadinessforimmediatedeployment.Thelongtermcostofmaintainingandtestingthestaged
equipmentwasnotclear.Thedecisionwastakenindependentlyofthegeneralindustryontheassumptionthat
theindustrywouldbecomeanallybychoiceorbydefault.Itwasasimpleandunderstandablesolutiontoa
clearproblem.
Duringthesameperiod,HelixEnergySolutionsGroup,Inc.concludedthatanidealdeepwaterspillresponse
hadbeendevelopedoverthecourseofthedisasterbasedonregionalassets,availabletechnologyandalarge
poolofserviceandoperatorexperts.Helixsuniqueapproachwastheresultofhavingseveralkeyassets
dedicatedtotheMacondoresponse,apresenceinthecontrolroomasproblemswererecognizedandresolved
andacompanyprofilethatprovidedanunusuallybroadperceptionoftheproblemandtheresponse.Helixisan
integratedcompanycomprisedof:

Anoilandgasproducingcompany

Asubseaconstructioncompany

Asubsearoboticscompany

Aproductionfacilitiescompany

Awellinterventionservicecompany

EachofthesesubsidiarieswasdirectlyinvolvedintheMacondoresponse.Theoilandgasgroupfeltthe
immediateimpactofthedrillingmoratoriumwithalloftheassociatedcommercialimpacts.Theconstruction
groupassistedinstoryboardingandinstallingsubseaequipmentwhileprovidingservicesupport.The
InterventiongroupmanagedtheQ4000whichfunctionedasaninfieldmultiserviceplatform,loadingdock,
ROVsupportvessel,heavyliftvesselandwellflowcapture,processandburnstation.Theproductionfacilities
groupmobilizedtheFPUHelixProducerIfromitsGulfofMexicoproductionlocationandmodifieditforprocess,
transferandburnofrecoveredhydrocarbonsfromthewell.Theroboticsgroupprovidedmultiplefullservice
workclassROVsinsupportofsubseaengineeringandserviceplanning,subseadispersantinjection,equipment
installationandobservationdutiesthroughouttheevent.
DuringalloftheseoperationsHelixpersonnelinteractedwiththehundredsofservicecompaniesand
specializedpersonnelengagedinthedaytodayinitiativesbeingdeployed.Thisincludedexperiencedpersonnel
secondedfromaverywiderangeofoilcompaniesinsupportofBPsefforts.Helixwasalsoengagedintheday
todaycommunicationwiththeregulatoryagenciesandUSCoastGuard.Asaresultofthisextendedexperience
andbroadperspective,auniqueresponsemodeltookshape.InHelixsview,theMacondoresponse
demonstratedthefullcapabilitiesandresourcesavailabletoemergencyresponseintheGulfofMexico.The
solutionsandtheimplementationofthosesolutionshadbeenaccomplishedsubstantiallywithlocalresources

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andpersonnel.TheGulfofMexicodeepwateroilandgasindustryisatthecuttingedgeoftechnicaldrillingand
productioncapabilities.Italsoboastsoneofthemostrobustinfrastructuresintheworld.TheMacondo
responsehadprovidedthesolutions,itwassimplyamatterofrefiningthemandensuringreadyaccessover
time.Inanopenandcompetitivemarket,thisrequiresauniquedegreeofcooperationacrossaverydiverse
rangeofcompaniesandpersonnel.
ThecounterpointtotheseobservationswasthebreadthofBPsinternalresourcesandthehugedemandthe
emergencymadeonpersonnelresources.ItwasclearthatthemajorityofoilcompaniesoperatinginGulfof
Mexicodeepwaterwouldnothavetheinternalpersonnelorexpertisetorespondtosuchalargescale
emergency.Independentoperatorsholdmorethan75%oftheleasesindeepwater.Theseoperatorswereat
riskintheimmediateshorttermbecausetheycouldnotdrillorcompletenewwellsuntilaresponsecapability
wasinplace.Theywereatriskinthelongertermbecausetheywouldnotbeabletomobilizesufficient
resourcestorespondontheirown.Thecostofcontractingsufficientresponsecapabilitiesandsupport
personnelinordertobepreparedforanemergencywouldendangertheeconomicviabilityofmanywellsand
fieldsintheplanningstage.
Itshouldalsobenotedthatduringthissameperiodastheresponsemodelswerebeingconceived,the
regulatoryenvironmentthatwouldbeinplaceafterMacondowasnotknown.Thedrillingmoratoriumwasin
effectandwouldnotbelifteduntiltheindustrymetspecificinspectionandtestingrequirementsonequipment,
providedspecificwellinformationduringthedrillingplanningstage,anddemonstratedanabilitytoprovidean
emergencyresponseforaneventsimilartotheDeepwaterHorizondisaster.Thislastrequirement,tomobilizea
capableresponse,wasapotentialindustrykillerifitdelayeddrillingoperationsforayearortwoastheresponse
plandevelopedandequipmentwascollected.
Theregulatoryrequirementsbecamecleargradually.NTL5(June8,2010)requiredinspectionofallsubseawell
equipment.NTL6(July21,2011)requiredspecificwelldesignandanalysisaspartofthepermitprocess.In
Augustof2010,Helixanticipatedtheresponsecomponentsthatwouldberequiredinordertorecommence
drillingandproposedtotheindividualindependentoperatorstoprovideacorefastresponsecapabilitybased
ontheassetsutilizedatMacondo.TheseassetswouldbeheldintheGulfofMexicoonanoperationalself
supportingbasis.KeytothisconceptwastheknowledgethattheHelixProducerIwasdedicatedtoinfield
productionoperationsattheERTPhoenixfieldandwouldbeavailableforaminimumoftwoyears.Additionally
theHP1wasdesignedandmaintainedincompliancewithGoMregulationsandcertifications.TheQ4000hada
substantialbacklogofworkintheGulfandwasexpectedtoremainfullyutilizedintheregion.Againthatvessel
wasuniquelyfittedtoUSoperationsincludingJonesActcompliance.TheHelixassetsalsorequired
approximately$23,000,000inequipmentengineering,manufactureandmodificationtoenhanceresponse
capabilityandmakepermanentmanyofthemodificationsdoneonatemporarybasisduringtheresponse.In

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viewoftheurgencyderivedfromthedrillingmoratorium,Helixfundedtheinitialengineering,andmanufacture
ofkeycomponentswhilerequestingimmediatefundingforthetotalcapitalinvestmentfromtheoperating
companies.ThemajorbarriertoobtainingoperatorfundingthroughSeptember,Octoberandmostof
Novemberwasthelackofregulatoryclarity.
InNovember,NTL2010N10wasissued,requiringthatoperatorsprovideanemergencyresponsecapability
sufficienttohandleaMacondotypeevent.BSEE(BOEMRE)NTL2010N10:

Appliesonlytooperatorsconductingoperationsusingsubseablowoutpreventers(BOPs)orsurface
BOPsonfloatingfacilities.

BSEE(BOEMRE)willevaluatewhethereachoperatorhassubmittedadequateinformation
demonstratingthatithasaccesstoandcandeploycontainmentresourcesthatwouldbeadequateto
promptlyrespondtoablowoutorotherlossofwellcontrol.

BSEE(BOEMRE)evaluationincludes,butisnotlimitedtothefollowing:

Subseacontainmentandcaptureequipment,includingcontainmentdomesandcappingstacks;
subseautilityequipment,includinghydraulicpower,hydratecontrolanddispersantinjection
equipment;risersystems,remotelyoperatedvehicles(ROVs),capturevessels;supportvessels,
andstoragefacilities.

BSEE(BOEMRE)willalsoevaluatewhetherthereisadequateinformationidentifyingpersonnelwhowill
beavailabletorespondtoablowoutorotherlossofwellcontrolrequiringthedeploymentof
containmentresources.

AtthistimeAnadarkoagreedinformallytocoverallofHelixexpensesformodificationandadditiontotheHelix
assets.ByearlyDecemberanindependentgroupofoperatorsledbyNobleEnergyandAnadarkoandin
associationwithHelixagreedtoformasecondresponsegroupasanalternativetotheMWCCsystem.This
responseconsortiumformedtheHelixWellContainmentGroup,orHWCG.Theresponsemodelwasbasedon
utilizingthefullinfrastructureavailableintheGulfofMexicoandmutualaidbetweencompaniespermitting
sharedpersonnel,equipmentandplanning.ThestartingpointforHWCGwasthatMacondohaddefinedthe
responserequirementsandthatallofthoseresourcesexistedinsupportofdaytodayoperationsintheGulfof
Mexico.Itwasalsorecognizedthatoperatingequipmentdeployedonadaytodaybasiswasthemostreliable
equipmenttouseinaresponse.Thiswasrefinedintoaphilosophybasedoncommerciallyselfsustained
equipmentandpersonnel,extendedmutualaid,auniformwellcontainmentplan,standardwellevaluation
toolsforpermittingandaninventoryofsharedequipmentheldincommonforemergencyrequirements.
Theadvantagesofthismutualaidapproacharesubstantial:

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Theequipment,experiencedpersonnelandkeyvesselsareimmediatelyavailableintheregionand
typicallywillbeoperationaloffshore,within1248hourstransitfromaproblemwell

RegulatoryagenciesandUSCGarefamiliarwiththeassets,deploymentandpersonnel

Thekeyassetsundergoregulartesting,inspectionandcertificationinthenormalcourseofbusiness

Lessonslearnedandapplicationofimprovedtechnologyinthenormalcourseofbusinessensuresthat
theassetswillremainbestinclass

Crewcompetencywillbesustainedinthenormalcourseofbusiness

Theassetsarecommerciallyselfsustainingastheyperformtheirnormalcommercialoperations

HWCGmembershiprapidlycametoinclude24deepwateroilandgascompaniesoperatingintheGulfof
Mexico.EachmembercompanyhasaccesstodedicatedequipmentunderagreementswithHelixEnergy
SolutionsGroupand30+additionalidentifiedvendors.HWCGismadeupofadiverseandexperiencedgroupof
deepwateroperators,representingamajorityofthedeepwateroperatorsandabouthalfofalldeepwateroil
andnaturalgasproductionintheGulfofMexico.HWCGisanotforprofitcompanywithservicescoveringall
drilling,completionsandproducingwellsintheGOMforwellcontainment.Thevalueofequipmentunder
contract/agreementsthatcanbebroughttobearinaresponseexceeds$1billion.
HWCGdevelopedarobust,fitforpurposemodelthatbenefitsallmemberstofulfillbothregulatoryand
memberrequirements.Equipmentandserviceprovidersundercontractforpreparednessmaintainassetsina
stateofreadinessonadailybasis.Plannedemergencyresponsetimeisreducedfromseveralweekstoafew
daysdependingonlocationofwell,equipmentandweather.Synchronizationofprotocolswascompletedto
developanextensiveandcommonwellcontainmentplan.Thefirstpermit,issuedonFeb.18,2011toNoble
Drilling,wasbasedonHWCGassetsandtheWellContainmentplan.Thismilestonesignaledresumptionof
drillingactivitiesintheGulfofMexico.
Allencompassingresponseproceduresareconstantlyrefinedtoallowcalloutofequipmentandpersonnelina
timelymannertorespondtoawellcontainmentevent.Thetechnicallimitsoftheassetsaremonitoredona
regularbasistoensuremembersdemandswillnotexceedcapabilitiesofthesystem.Presently,HWCGscore
equipmentiscomprisedoftheQ4000,HelixProducerI,2cappingstacks(135/810k,1815K),intervention
risersystem(IRS),tophatandflowbackequipment,andconnectivetooling.Thesystemisratedforoperations
in10,000feetofwater.Containmentorcapturecapacityislistedis55,000bbls.oil/dayand80MMSCFgas.
HWCGsexperienceisthatpreparednessiscrucialforeachmemberandrequirescontinuoustraining,exercises
anddrills.AllHWCGmembercompaniesareundertakingwellcontainmenttrainingandpracticedrillsboth

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internallyandincollaborationwithotherHWCGmembers.HWCGconductedtwoseparatedaylong
comprehensivetabletopexercises/drillstosimulatetheimplementationofthegroupsWellContainmentPlan.
Bothexerciseswereattendedbymorethan200industryexpertssecondedfromthemembercompanies.These
drillshavebeenexpandedandintegratedintheoperatorsOilSpillResponse(OSRP)activities.
HWCGhasfollowedNIMS(NationalIncidentManagementSystem)todevelopconsistentrolesand
responsibilitiesthatfollowICSIncidentCommandSystemandtheorganizationstructurewhichgovernmental
agencieshaveimplemented,conformtoandparticipatewithin.Thispermitsasmoothtransitionand
understandingbetweenmembersandregulatoryagenciesinvolved.Withastateoftheartnotificationsystem,
200+mutualaidpersonnelcanbecallouttoassistinaneventordrillwithinamatterofminutes.HWCGhas
contractedadedicatedCommandCenterarea(15,000sqft)tosupporttheSourceControlTeamduringan
actualevent.TheHWCGcomprehensivelyaddressestheplanningandemergencyresponserequirementsinthe
GulfofMexicoonthebroadestpossiblescale.Themutualaidapproachpermitscriticalsmallerproducersand
operatorstocontinuedeepwateroperationswithfullconfidenceintheirabilitytomeetemergencyobligations
andregulatoryrequirements.Thecostofsustainingthemajorassetsisminimalandtheassetsareimmediately
accessible,fullyoperationalandknowledgeablycrewed.Theregularinputfromassociatedservicecompanies,
lessonsdevelopedduringdrills,andopportunitiestotestnewtechniquesandtechnologyinthefield,ensures
thatthetotalcapabilitiesremainbestinclass.Mutualaidandcooperationwithinthespecificareaofemergency
responseprovidesaverybroadbased,flexibleandconsistentbasisforaddressingapotentialwelleventindeep
water.Theresponsiblepartyhasimmediateaccesstoallofthekeyresourcesnecessarytominimizethe
durationandimpactoftheeventsafelyandeffectively.