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UK oil spill capping device unveiled

Energy minister Charles Hendry today unveiled a temporary well capping device designed in the UK to minimise disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The device is built to seal off an uncontrolled subsea well in the event of a major spill incident such as the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster — buying time for engineers to develop a permanent solution to seal the well. The cap works by shutting in and holding pressure on an uncontrolled well and uses a choke and a series of valves which close down and stop the flow of hydrocarbons into the marine environment.

The device has been constructed, tested and is available for deployment. Its development was overseen by industry body the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group, project managed by BP and supported by engineering services firm Wood Group Kenny. The device was built by oil and gas product provider Cameron.

Hendry said the equipment “will serve as a major step forward” in the UK’s oil spill response capability. The cap will now be held on standby at an operational base in the north east of Scotland.

Well capping device demonstration

Capping device key facts

It can quickly be deployed:

  • At the widest possible range of wells and oil spill scenarios which could occur in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf
  • To various points of the subsea stack
  • At water depths of between 100m and 3.048km
  • In wave heights of up to 5m
  • To wells flowing up to 1,034 bar in pressure and 121°C in temperature
  • Even where there is a high content of hydrogen sulphide present
  • On to a well flowing up to 75,000 barrels a day


  • Length: 4.26m
  • Width: 3.97m
  • Height: 7.14m (can be adjusted for transportation)
  • Footprint: 15.8m² if frame fully plated
  • Weight: approximately 40t

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