A pair of leading Gulf of Mexico (GOM) pipeline operators and a pair of GOM producers said Wednesday they will collaborate to provide improved access to repair systems and equipment needed to conduct pipeline repairs in water depths of up to 10,000 feet.

Called the Deep Water Response to Underwater Pipeline Emergencies (DW RUPE), the initiative is backed by pipeliners Enterprise Products Partners LP and Enbridge and producers BP Exploration and Production Inc. and Eni. The four have agreed to a co-ownership contract agreement to buy about $12 million worth of specialized pipeline repair systems and equipment to be stored in the GOM region.

The program is intended to facilitate faster deployment of equipment needed to make deepwater pipeline repairs on the members' dedicated pipelines to more quickly restore production flow after damage from hurricanes or other events.

"This initiative will, for the first time, make it possible for the co-owners to have critical repair systems that typically require long lead times readily available for deepwater pipeline repairs," said Mike Stark, Enterprise director of offshore pipelines and chairman of the co-ownership group. "This alliance reflects the industry's strong cooperative spirit and commitment to taking the steps necessary to minimize the interruption of valuable domestic energy supplies."

The initial four participating companies represent one-fourth of the Gulf's total deepwater pipeline mileage. They said they expect other pipeline owners/operators to join the group as they realize the opportunity to minimize the consequences of pipeline damage. Two major GOM operators already have deepwater repair tools available, but these are proprietary systems and not generally available to others, the DW RUPE companies said.

Stress Subsea, a unit of Stress Engineering Services, is credited for recognizing the need for more widespread availability of deepwater pipeline repair equipment and began organizing the joint industry project in 2004, leading to the co-ownership project announced Wednesday. Stress Subsea will be the project manager for DW RUPE.

"This program is modeled after a successful shallow water RUPE that has been in place for about 30 years and involve a co-ownership group consisting of about 30 members," said Ray Ayers of Stress Subsea. "This new DW RUPE gives us the capability to significantly expand our capabilities beyond the original 1,000-foot limit."

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita tore the anchors loose on 19 mobile oil and gas rigs, destroyed or damaged 166 platforms, pummeled 461 pipelines and flooded most of the near-shore gas processors and refineries. Last month, speakers at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston were still talking about the infamous 2005 hurricane season. Indeed, 2-3% of pipeline capacity in the Gulf of Mexico was still out of service, speakers at the April-May conference said. With final repairs under way, operators, meteorologists, service companies and others wondered whether the stakes have been permanently raised in the Gulf (see Daily GPI, May 2).

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita cost BP about 160,000 boe/d in 3Q2005 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12, 2006). Last year BP began installation of a deep sea cable network to improve monitoring of GOM infrastructure and communications during emergencies (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25, 2006).

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