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Following the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, nine leading companies set up a consortium called the Subsea Well Response Project. With Shell as the operator, it designed and built comprehensive capping systems for use at depths of up to 3,000 metres (over 9,800 feet).

The consortium aims to improve drilling safety and minimise environmental impact in the event of a serious incident. It designed the systems to adapt to a wide range of situations and locations.

Safety in the Gulf of Mexico

The MWCC lowers a capping stack onto a simulated wellhead over 2,000 metres below the ocean’s surface.

The MWCC lowers a capping stack onto a simulated wellhead over 2,000 metres below the ocean’s surface.

Shell has also joined with other companies that operate in the US Gulf of Mexico (GoM) to form the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC), with over $1 billion of funding. The 10 member companies have set up a rapid-response system that is designed to cap and shut in the well, or capture and contain cap and flow a well to contain the oil, in the event of a future underwater well blowout in the GoM.

In 2012, the MWCC lowered a seven-metre tall capping stack more than 2,000 metres (over 6,500 feet) onto a well to demonstrate its capability. Shell volunteered to perform the drill, working closely with federal regulators, including the US Coast Guard and the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The exercise successfully demonstrated the industry’s ability to respond to a well-control incident.