On 13 April, US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced proposed regulations that call for more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for critical well control equipment used in offshore oil and gas operations. “Both industry and government have taken important strides to better protect human lives and the environment from oil spills, and these proposed measures are designed to further build on critical lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and to ensure that offshore operations are safe,” Secretary Jewell said. “This rule builds on enhanced industry standards for BOPs to comprehensively address well design, well control and overall drilling safety.”
The proposed rule, which will be open for public comments for 60 days, addresses the range of systems and equipment related to well control operations. The measures are designed to improve equipment reliability, building upon enhanced industry standards for BOPs and blowout prevention technologies. The rule also includes reforms in well design, well control, casing, cementing, real-time well monitoring and subsea containment.
The well control measures would implement multiple recommendations from various investigations and reports of Macondo, including: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement/US Coast Guard Joint Investigation-Forensic Equipment Analysis (September 2011); National Academy of Engineering (May 2012); National Oil Spill Commission (January 2011); Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee; and the Government Accountability Office, among others.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) thoroughly analyzed the results of the investigations, including nearly 370 specific recommendations, and conducted outreach to derive further enhancements from stakeholder input, academia and industry best practices, standards and specifications.
“We worked to collect the best ideas on the prevention of well control incidents and blowouts to develop this proposed rule – including knowledge and skillsets from industry and equipment managers,”Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, said. “This rule proposes both prescriptive and performance-based standards that are based on this extensive engagement and analysis.”
In May 2012, BSEE’s offshore energy safety forum brought together federal policymakers, industry, academia and others to discuss additional steps the bureau and the industry could take to continue to improve the reliability and safety of BOPs. Following the forum, BSEE received significant input and specific recommendations from industry groups, operators, equipment manufacturers and environmental organizations.
“In addition to more stringent design requirements, the proposed rule requires improved controls of all repair and maintenance activities through the lifecycle of the BOP and other well control equipment,” BSEE Director Brian Salerno said. “It would provide verification of the performance of equipment designs through third-party verification, enhanced oversight of operations through real-time monitoring viewed onshore, and require operators to, during operations, utilize recognized engineering best standards that reduce risk.”
The Outer Continental Shelf accounts for more than 16% of American oil production and approximately 5% of domestic natural gas production – bringing in revenues of more than $7.4 billion in 2014.
The public may submit comments on the proposed regulations during the 60-day comment period that begins 15 April, when the proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register.
Click here to submit a comment to the US government’s official rulemaking portal.
Click here to view the proposed regulations.