New oil siphon would take only weeks to be in use

Published 2:21 pm Friday, October 22, 2010

The senior manager of a project to build a more efficient system to contain oil in deep water said Wednesday that once built and tested, the cap-and-siphon contraption could be deployed and in use within weeks of a future well blowout.

Exxon Mobil’s Lloyd Guillory said he is confident the never-before-attempted effort will be successful. He said the $1 billion system that isn’t expected to be ready for use until early 2012 will be adaptable to different blowout scenarios.

Guillory told The Associated Press during a break in a major oil spill conference in Florida that prevention is the real answer for the industry. He said if prevention is done right, the system would never have to be used.

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“The system will work,” Guillory said. “It will be purpose built and tested.”

Exxon Mobil Corp. is leading a coalition of oil companies building the one-of-a-kind system designed to contain an oil leak in up to 10,000 feet of water — twice the depth of the BP blowout. BP has joined the project and agreed to submit the equipment it used to eventually kill its runaway well.

Drawings of the proposed system show a cap and a series of undersea devices — including cables, a riser, a manifold and a piece of equipment that would pump dispersant. Lines would be hooked up to vessels on the surface.

The two-day Clean Gulf conference at a convention center in Tampa was billed as a look at lessons learned from the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill, and an analysis of solutions for the future. In attendance were top officials from every Gulf state, the U.S. government, and the oil and gas industry.

Some local officials and seafood wholesalers in Louisiana complained that the industry-sponsored conference was short on concrete ways to handle future disasters and long on self-congratulation and criticism of the media. Billy Nungesser, the president of oil-soaked Plaquemines Parish, La., and a frequent critic of BP’s and the government’s response to the Gulf of Mexico spill, said he was leaving town before the second day of sessions.

“I fear we won’t see anything changed,” he told the AP before he left.

Wednesday’s opening session began with the industry sponsors — which included BP and other major oil companies — presenting appreciation plaques to several Gulf states and the U.S. Coast Guard. Hundreds of people clapped.

A panelist from Texas then thanked BP for stepping up and doing a good job in the Gulf spill response. A Mississippi official on the panel also congratulated the Coast Guard and urged people to visit his state because, he asserted, there was very little impact there from the spill. A Coast Guard official told those gathered it is important to never forget your successes.

The show director for the event’s organizer said in an e-mail to the AP that it was only natural for the event to have focused on what occurred in the past with respect to the Deepwater Horizon incident, but she maintained there was appropriate emphasis on prevention and preparedness for the future.