'Major step forward' as oil spill cap unveiled at SPE Offshore Europe 2011

An oil well cap built specifically for British waters has been hailed as a 'major step forward' by energy minister Charles Hendry.

An artist's impression of the cap being lowered into place

An artist's impression of the cap being lowered into place

The minister revealed the cap, which been constructed, tested and is ready for deployment, at the SPE Offshore Europe 2011 conference in Aberdeen today (September 6).

At the same event Mr Hendry also announced two major developments for the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS).

The energy minister has greenlighted Chevron's Aberlour well - the company's third deepwater exporation well off the west and north of Shetland, which will use the hi-tech drilling ship the Stena Carron.

As well as approving BP's field development plan for Kinnoull, which will be connected to the company's Andrew platform and produce up to 45,000 barrels of oil a day.

Talking of BP, with devastation caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster off the coast of the United States still at the forefront off political and oil planners thinking, the new capping device could not have been timed better.

It is designed to seal off an underwater oil well in the event of an accident, which should minimise environmental damage and buy time for engineers to permanently seal the well.

PIC: the cap fits on to a broken oil well to close it

The cap works by shutting in and holding pressure on an uncontrolled well and uses a choke and a series of valves which close down and stop the flow of hydrocarbons into the marine environment.

Its modular design means it can be attached to various points of subsea equipment and deployed to the widest possible range of subsea well types and oil spill scenarios which could occur - including in the deep waters and harsh conditions west of Shetland.

The cap is rated for deployment in water depths up to 10,000ft on wells flowing up to 75,000 barrels per day at 15,000 psi, a much greater depth than any of the deepest wells in the on the UKCS.

Mr Hendry said: "Having this equipment ready to deploy in the UKCS significantly enhances our ability to deal with any incident should any occur in the basin.

"Prevention is always the best course however, which is why we strive for the best regulation and procedures in any basin anywhere in the world."

Luke Walsh


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