Although no one in the oil and gas industry wants to see negative incidents happen like spills or blowouts, in the past, when these accidents have occurred, they have challenged the industry as a whole to improve drilling standards and practices. Case in point, the Macondo blowout and explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was a game changer for the industry in a number of ways. Not only did the blowout cause the largest offshore oil spill in history and claim eleven lives. Containment and plugging of the well proved highly difficult. In fact, before the Macondo well was made effectively dead through the drilling of a relief well, BP tried a number of containment options that were less than successful. There is no doubt that the delay in well containment during the Macondo spill was a major factor in making the spill the largest in the petroleum industry’s history.
If anything, the Macondo incident reaffirmed the industry-wide need for better and quicker well containment and capping solutions for these low potential but high consequence events. It also served as the basis for an innovative United States-Canadian joint venture in 2011.Trendsetter Engineering Inc. is a subsea engineering company that helped in the response to the Macondo spill. And as a result of their containment efforts, the company developed a unique Well Capping Stack, a well containing technology which could not only be customizable, but, most importantly, could substantially reduce delay time in containing an offshore well blowout.
In 2011, Blair MacDougall, who is the founder and director of WESI, a Canadian consulting firm that provides industry personnel to oil and gas companies around the world, saw the value in Trendsetter’s Well Capping Stack technology, and specifically, saw the value in bringing the technology to the Canadian offshore oil and gas industry. Since that time, WESI and Houston-based Trendsetter have worked together to bring well capping technology, as well as other subsea solutions, to the Canadian industry.
“Although there is still no dedicated Canadian capping system stored on Canadian soil, we remain fully invested in Trendsetter’s Well Capping Stack technology,” says Blair MacDougall. “And, personally, I believe that having a dedicatedcapping stack system in Canada for wells drilled off the East Coast, in areas like offshore Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, holds many advantages over a global response system,” continues MacDougall.
Blair MacDougall then comments, “What we have found in the past several years is that many oil and gas companies are justifying their contingency plans using international-based shared cap systems with regulators on a case-by-case basis. This has advantages in terms of cost and standardization of tools and equipment, but the details of mobilization, staging, assembly, testing and installing at a location off Norway vs. Offshore Canada can be very different, for example.”
Despite the fact that at the moment a capping system is not currently being stored in Canadian soil, encouraging advancements have been made in other parts of capping technology in the Canadian market.
“The Canadian Arctic looks to be poised for exploration and drilling activity in the next five to ten years. Already the Kara Sea in Russia has seen some reported exploration success,” says Blair MacDougall.“And, in advance of this expected activity, we are positioning to have input into contingency planning, including well capping initiatives, in the area.”