Industry reports many changes in deepwater drilling practices

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Feb. 14 -- Oil companies and drilling contractors are working together very closely to prevent any future oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, speakers said Feb. 11 during a forum at Rice University’s Baker Institute about managing the risks of offshore oil exploration.

“The best way to deal with an oil spill is to never have one,” said Gary Luquette, president of Chevron North America Exploration & Production Co. “What I wish is we would have an opportunity to demonstrate all our enhanced capability by getting [deepwater drilling] permits and getting back to work.” Luquette has served on various post-Macondo industry task forces.

He said industry has worked on prevention, intervention, and recovery following the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo well off Louisiana. BP PLC operated Macondo. An explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible killed 11 crew members and a massive oil spill resulted.

Kent Wells, senior vice-president of BP global deepwater response, said industry and regulators need to work together.

“Whether you are a regulator or industry, we want to make sure this never happens again,” Wells said. “It’s not about just talking. It’s about being able to work together.”

‘Better prepared’
Wells said industry has changed the way it would respond to a future deepwater oil spill, adding he believes oil companies would be “much better prepared” if another deepwater gulf well were to blow out.

“We will be drilling deeper,” Wells said. “We need to be sure our drilling is safe, and our response technology keeps responding. I sense we are committed to that.”

Louis Raspino, Pride International Inc. president and chief executive officer, said he sees changes being made in safety procedures and drilling equipment worldwide as a result of the Macondo blowout.

“Drilling contractors want to live up the highest standards possible,” Raspino said. “Our customers want the best equipment possible, and they are willing to pay for it, particularly in the jack up world and also in deep water.”

Charles Davidson, Noble Energy Inc. chairman and chief executive officer, said he supports the idea that the drilling fleet needs to change and to be updated.

“Many of us already do peer reviews of each other,” Davidson said. “It makes sense to have a repository for best practice. We do it in our own organizations all the time. I would support the ability to enhance the sharing of information.”

Oil companies also are changing the way they evaluate potential deepwater partners, Davidson said.

Previously, an oil company joined a project based upon how good the prospect looked, he said, adding that now oil companies are more likely to check the operator’s preparedness in case of problems before signing on as a partner.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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