Big Oil plans 'rapid response system' for Gulf

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK ( -- Four leading energy companies announced a plan Wednesday to create a "rapid response system" to deal with any future oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

ExxonMobil (XOM, Fortune 500), Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500), ConocoPhillips (COP, Fortune 500) and Shell (RDS.A) have committed $1 billion to fund the initial cost. However, the companies did not say when the system would be ready.

The system, which is still being developed, will be designed to use "capture vessels" to contain and store oil in the event of an underwater well blowout. It will be able to operate at depths up to 10,000 feet, and have initial capacity to contain 100,000 barrels per day.

In the event of a spill, the system can be mobilized within 24 hours.

The system will be operated and maintained by a non-profit organization called the Marine Well Containment Company. The oil companies said engineering, procurement and construction of containment equipment and vessels for the system will begin immediately.

"As an industry, we must rebuild trust with the American people in order to demonstrate that we can produce energy in a safe and environmentally responsible manner," Marvin Odum, president of Shell, said in a prepared statement.

BP (BP) is considering a plan that could permanently seal the ruptured well as soon as this weekend. But the tactic, called a "static kill," requires the approval of the federal government and cannot proceed until BP gets a crucial casing in place, a company official said.  To top of page

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