Will oil spill response system lift the gulf drilling moratorium?

An oil drilling ship arriving in port

A rapid oil spill response system is being developed by oil companies to convince the government to lift the deep water drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico. PhillipC/Flickr photo.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 has triggered a federal drilling moratorium in deep-sea waters in the Gulf. Many in the oil industry are protesting loudly. But four oil companies are actually doing something that may help lift the drilling moratorium. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell are committing $1 billion to set up a rapid oil spill response system in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, BP could try an operation by this weekend called a “static kill” to permanently seal the BP oil leak. But approaching tropical storms are threatening to delay the procedure

Deep water oil spill response system

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 and the drilling moratorium have been a wake up call for the oil industry. While it has poured billions of dollars into drilling for oil in ever-deeper waters, oil spill response technology has not advanced much in decades. The New York Times reports that the initial funding for the rapid response system will be used to build containment equipment, including underwater systems and pipelines, that will be able to deal with deep water mishaps. Participating oil companies expect the system will be able to operate as deep as 10,000 feet and capture 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

Oil companies proactive on drilling moratorium

Oil companies hope the oil spill response initiative will help persuade government regulators to lift the six-month ban on deep water drilling as soon as possible. The Wall Street Journal reports that the system resembles the one developed by BP during three months of trial and error after the Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20. The system, a non-profit venture called the Marine Well Containment Company, is expected to be ready within 18 months.

Oil spill containment threatened by weather

The BP oil leak could be sealed permanently this weekend with a tactic called a “static kill.” CNN reports that the static kill involves pumping mud into the well to force oil back into the reservoir below. Officials from BP have said the “static kill” option could succeed where similar attempts have failed because pressure in the well is lower than expected. BP officials are still working on the permanent fix: a relief well that is scheduled to be in place by the end of July. Time is of the essence because a tropical storm heading to the gulf from the Caribbean could disrupt operations for 10 to 14 days.

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