'End to All Oil Spills' Technology Unveiled

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and its big oil peers unveiled their so-called "end to all oil spills" containment technology on Thursday.

The Marine Well Containment Company was created by Exxon and other integrated oil majors during the BP ( BP) oil spill crisis as a way to ensure politicians and the U.S. public that the industry would be prepared in the event of another oil spill.

On Thursday, the culmination of the first phase of big oil's oil spill project -- for which companies including ExxonMobil have invested $1 billion -- had its photo op: the Marine Well Containment Interim Containment System.
The new Marine Well Containment system unveiled by Exxon Mobil on Feb. 17.

Oil companies are anxious to get back to work in the Gulf of Mexico, but the new permitting process for deepwater drilling has included the expected bureaucratic wrinkles and delays.

The list of Exxon's partners in the containment technology include Chevron ( CVX), Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A) and ConocoPhillips ( COP). BP has joined the original group of companies in the consortium and has donated technology used during its oil spill containment effort.

BP failed in successive attempts with its technology to cap the runaway Macondo well before finally taking control of the oil spill in July.

The heads of all of the U.S. integrated oil majors were, of course, called before Congress to testify during the BP oil spill and were lambasted for oil spill containment procedures that, company by company, matched up exactly in providing out-of-date data and even erroneous statements -- such as the reference to walruses existing in the Gulf of Mexico, while Gulf walruses have actually been extinct for millions of years.

The heads of the U.S. integrated oil majors also used their congressional testimony during the oil spill to point the finger at BP and argue that the industry wasn't the problem, just one British oil company that used procedures outside the industry "norm."

Meanwhile, on Thursday, BP sent a letter to the federal government arguing that recovery in the Gulf of Mexico -- from fishing to tourism -- is occurring much more quickly that the government allows, and that current future damage calculations being made by the government as part of the Gulf Coast Claims Fund process are overstating the potential oil spill impact and economic damages. The public relations offensive marches on.

The Interim Containment System works at depths of up to 8,000 feet -- the BP spill was at 5,000 feet below the water's surface, and can capture up to 60,000 barrels of oil per day -- the government and BP are still at odds over the exact oil flow estimate from the Macondo well spill, with 60,000 barrels being the upper end of the estimated oil flow range.

The system is available for deployment and has been reviewed by the federal government's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the oil industry group said. It can be deployed within 24 hours and it already being stored on Texas and Louisiana coasts -- permanent sites are still being chosen.

Clay Vaughn, vice president of deepwater projects at ExxonMobil Development Company, said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday that the federal government's energy watchdog was on hand for a test of the new system on Wednesday.

Marty Massey, CEO of the Marine Well Containment Company, said in a statement, "The Marine Well Containment Company has successfully developed a solution for rapid well containment response.... This milestone fulfills a commitment set forth by the four original sponsor companies to deliver a rapid containment response capability within the first six months of launching the marine well containment project."

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.


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