Discussion Paper

Organizational Design for Spill Containment in Deepwater Drilling Operations in the Gulf of Mexico: Assessment of the Marine WellContainment Company (MWCC)

Jan 12, 2011 | Robert Anderson, Mark A Cohen, Molly K. Macauley, Nathan Richardson, Adam Stern


The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 led to the deaths of 11 workers, a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, and nearly three months of massive engineering and logistics efforts to stop the spill. The series of failures before the well was finally capped and the spill contained revealed an inability to deal effectively with a well in deepwater and ultradeepwater. Ensuring that containment capabilities are adequate for drilling operations at these depths is therefore a salient challenge for government and industry. In this paper we assess the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC), a consortium aimed at designing and building a system capable ofcontaining future deepwater spills in the Gulf. We also consider alternatives for long-term readiness for deepwater spill containment. We focus on the roles of liability and regulation as determinants of readiness and the adequacy of incentives for technological innovation in oil spill containment technology to keep pace with advances in deepwater drilling capability. Liability and regulation can significantly influence the strength of these incentives. In addition, we discuss appropriate governance structure as a major determinant of the effectiveness of MWCC.