As BP moves closer to permanently containing the Gulf oil spill, four major oil companies are moving to ensure there's a rapid response system in place, in the event of a future deep-sea well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shellannounced that they have committed $1 billion to fund the launch of a non-profit joint venture called the Marine Well Containment Company. Engineers from the four firms, led by Exxon are developing a spill response system that can be mobilized within 24 hours of an incident, and be used in deepwater depths of up to 10,000 feet, with a capacity to contain up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day.
BP's response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf has evolved into what has been a hit-and-miss process since the spill began on April 20th which sent millions of gallons of oil into Gulf waters. The Marine Well Containment Company response plans have clearly built on the issues raised during the response to the BP oil spill.
“The extensive experience of industry shows that when the focus remains on safe operations and risk management, tragic incidents like the one we are witnessing in the Gulf of Mexico today should not occur,” said Exxon Ceo Rex Tillerson in a statement released with the announcement. Exxon is taking the lead in the response initiative.
The lack of comprehensive disaster planning by the industry is one of the reasons the Obama administration has cited for maintaining the moratorium on deepwater drilling which began on May 28th. But Clearview Energy analyst Kevin Book said the oil companies' move may not deter regulatory ferver in Washington.
"It may have unintended consequences," Book writes in a note clients, "If lawmakers interpret the Marine Well Containment company as a signal that the industry itself believes deepwater drilling requires nothing less than a cleanup fleet on warm standby." Book says congress may see the industry's efforts as a baseline and demand further precautions.
(CORRECTION: A headline on an earlier version of this story incorrectly implied BP was part of the response team, when it was not.)