A subsidiary of Houston's Apache Corp. is the newest member of the Marine Well Containment Co. (MWCC), which was formed last year by Big Oil producers to help respond to well control incidents in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

Apache Deepwater LLC will join the organization that is led by ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell plc; BP plc became a member in February (see Daily GPI, Feb. 2; July 23, 2010).

"As we resume drilling operations in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, we recognize we must be vigilant in managing risks properly," said Apache CEO G. Steven Farris. "We also recognize that it is essential to have the capability to respond rapidly to a subsea well control incident even as we expect the equipment will never be used."

Shortly before the Macondo well blowout in the GOM, Apache paid $1.05 billion to buy Devon Energy Corp.'s Outer Continental Shell properties and an estimated $2.7 billion to acquire GOM-focused Mariner Energy Inc. (see Daily GPI, April 16, 2010; April 13, 2010).

The MWCC's interim well containment system, which was unveiled in February, has the capacity to contain up to 60,000 b/d of fluid in up to 8,000 feet of water (see Daily GPI, Feb. 18). Work is under way on the expanded system for delivery in 2012 to handle up to 100,000 b/d of fluid in up to 10,000 feet of water.

The membership rollout began in mid February, noted MWCC CEO Marty Massey. "Each member will have equal ownership, as well as a share in the development and operating costs." Membership in the MWCC is open to all GOM oil and natural gas operators.

The initial membership period ends March 31, and after that an additional surcharge will apply. Companies that are not members may access the MWCC system through a service agreement and fee.

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