Image: BP pilots work in ROV control station
Marc Morrison  /  BP via Reuters
BP pilots work in the ROV (remotely operated vehicles) control station onboard Discoverer Inspiration in the Gulf of Mexico on July 12. ROVs were critical to the spill response.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/20/2010 7:24:07 PM ET 2010-09-20T23:24:07

BP, which permanently sealed its ruptured Gulf of Mexico well this weekend, said on Monday it is joining the industry's $1 billion effort to contain future subsea oil spills.

As part of its agreement to join the Marine Well Containment Company headed by Exxon Mobil Corp., BP will make its underwater well containment equipment — as well as spill-tested staff — available to oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf.

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Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell said in July they are developing a new, rapid-response oil spill containment system in the Gulf to help prevent another disaster like the Macondo blow-out.

The BP equipment used in the Gulf disaster could capture and contain oil from a potential underwater well blowout while the new system announced is under development, the British company said.

"We believe the addition of our recently gained deepwater intervention experience and specialized equipment will be important to the marine well containment system," Richard Morrison, BP vice president for Gulf of Mexico operations, said in a statement.

BP's Macondo well rupture off the coast of Louisiana on April 20 caused an explosion that killed 11 workers and spilled more than 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf.

It took the company five months to permanently kill the well, although it was capped July 15 and no oil flowed into the water since that date.

The industry's rapid-response system, which will be available for mobilization within 24 hours, will be used on a range of equipment and in varying weather conditions and has the potential for expansion.

It will consist of specially designed subsea containment equipment connected by manifolds, jumpers and risers to capture vessels that will store and offload any spilled oil.

Existing BP equipment is being assessed for use in near-term response capability. The sponsor companies' project team will also be able to use full time BP technical personnel with experience from the Gulf of Mexico response.

BP's equipment will be operated by MWCC.

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BP had earlier indicated it was not prepared to join while it was focused on the spill cleanup.

Exxon Mobil welcomed BP's help, saying it would held lead to a "system that exceeds current response capabilities."

It did not, however, provide a date for when the system would be ready.

The joint venture’s equipment is to include a containment vessel capable of capturing up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day and other equipment to siphon any leaking oil up from the seafloor to a depth of 10,000 feet.

Oil companies banded together and founded a similar organization soon after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989. The Virginia-based Marine Spill Response Corp was formed to respond to oil spills and much of its available equipment is already deployed in the Gulf.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Big oil to develop rapid response plan for future spills

  1. Transcript of: Big oil to develop rapid response plan for future spills

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to the Gulf of Mexico where an awful episode has now ended. BP this weekend said it has finally and permanently shut down the blown-out oil well . The company announced today it's joining the consortium of the world's biggest oil companies to develop a rapid response plan for any future gulf well accidents, but the effects of this one are a long way from over. Our chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson , as you may know, has covered this story from the very start. She's in New Orleans again for us tonight. Anne , good evening.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Brian . Over the weekend the 1,000-foot cement plug at the bottom of the Macondo well withstood a pressure test. And with that, national incident commander Thad Allen declared the well dead. It certainly is a significant milestone, but as you said, it is by no means the end to this crisis. Five months after the explosion, there is still oil in the marshes of southeast Louisiana . Tar balls continue to wash up on beach -- on some beaches. Scientists are finding plumes of crude thousands of feet below the surface of the gulf, and now on the sea floor, that they suspect comes from BP 's well. All of that is making it very difficult for this area to recover. Today, some 40,000 square miles, almost 17 percent of the Gulf of Mexico , remains closed to fishing. Louisiana seafood production is devastated, down 70 percent. And tourism industries along the gulf coast , hotels, restaurants, they also report similar declines in business. This area has a big public relations problem that neither a presidential visit nor presidential endorsements nor ad campaigns have solved so far. And it is just one of many challenges facing this area in the wake of the oil spill . Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Anne Thompson in New Orleans for us tonight. Anne , thanks

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