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Subsea Oil Containment Solution

Updated 8/31/10 - see press release below

Background: There are over 4,000 active oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico supplying upwards of 25% of the United States' oil needs. Many wells, and most new wells, are located in deepwater (5,000-10,000 feet) or ultra-deep (over 10,000 feet water depth) which makes disaster containment difficult.

Gaumer Subsea Heater prevents hydrates.

Problem: As you go deeper, pressure increases. In a deepwater spill, high pressure causes hydrates to form as natural gas and seawater mix. The hydrates, if not prevented, can make oil containment difficult or unsuccessful. In the case of BP's initial MC252 Macondo containment attempt in 5,000 feet of water, massive hydrates formed instantly disabling the containment vessel's outlet and preventing successful containment. The vessel remains on the ocean floor as the explosive hydrates should be melted before the vessel can be safely raised to the surface.

Solution: To prevent hydrate formation during deepwater containment, either of two techniques can be utilized:

  1. Electric heater - Gaumer has patented medium voltage subsea heaters which can be installed directly in a containment vessel and powered by a ship above. Temperature is raised above the hydrate formation temperature. This simple approach allows immediate containment and has no environmental impact.
  2. Chemical injection - Methanol or other hazardous chemicals are injected into a containment vessel to lower the hydrate formation temperature. Success relies upon accurately measuring and controlling both the chemical/sea water concentration and distribution within the vessel. To prevent hydrates from disabling a vessel, excessive amounts of hazardous chemicals may be released into the ocean.

Risk: Deepwater oil production grew 535% between 1995 and 2004. According to the Coast Guard, there were 16 rigs operating in 5,000 or deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico during May 2010. Between the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and May 26, at least 17 drilling permits were issued, including 6 projects classified as ultra deepwater, including 4 new wells at over 9,100 feet water depth. Deepwater drilling growth will continue as 65 deep water drillships like the Deepwater Horizon are expected by 2016.

Changes: As evidenced by the formation of the Marine Well Containment Company, oil companies are seeking effective containment solutions for future subsea exploration. Gaumer Process believes that hydrate prevention is essential to successful subsea containment. After an unexpected event, a complete seal with the seabed cannot be guaranteed. Gaumer's medium voltage subsea heaters enable immediate oil containment by preventing hydrate formation within deepwater containment vessels.

Press links:

Contact Gaumer Process at 713-460-5200 to discuss your subsea containment and hydrate elimination/prevention needs. Emergency 24 hour service is available at this number.

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