By Dr Lee Hunt
On 22 June, the deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico was set aside by a preliminary injunction issued by US District Judge Martin Feldman. Although the drilling industry welcomes this development, we’re well aware that the fight is far from over. US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar vowed to appeal the ruling and issue a new moratorium.
Make no mistake: The battle to put our rigs and our employees back to work in the Gulf is just getting started.
IADC has been working and continues to work at a feverish pace to help our members get back to what they do best – making hole and helping get the world’s much needed hydrocarbon resources out of the ground.
As early as April, IADC was participating in a joint industry task group to make recommendations to the Secretary on ways to ensure offshore safety. IADC also was working with the Shallow Water Coalition for Energy Security to press for the immediate resumption of drilling operations in shallow water depths, less than 500 ft.
President Obama announced on 27 May a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling – including the suspension of 33 deepwater well operations already under way.
On 4 June, IADC sent a letter to Secretary Salazar urging the Department of Interior to resume issuing permits for new deepwater work. The letter warned that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost in the drilling industry and the Gulf Coast communities. Rather than shutting down an entire industry, IADC urged that the fitness of existing rigs be re-certified and allowed to resume drilling.
In recent weeks, IADC formed the Deepwater Coalition; members are Diamond Offshore, Ensco, Helmerich & Payne IDC, Maersk Drilling, Noble Corp, Pride International, Rowan Companies, Seadrill, Transocean, Edison Chouest and Hornbeck Offshore. The services of Washington, DC-based advocacy firm Van Scoyoc Associates have been secured to help the coalition navigate the industry’s battle ahead.
On the grassroots level, IADC has set up a website (www.IADC.org/offshore_GOM_Reform) providing pre-addressed model letters to US congressional representatives and senators. The website also offers regularly updated news and documents related to the drilling ban. Further, IADC representatives are attending town hall meetings as they’re being held in various cities to ensure that the views of the drilling industry are not overlooked during discussions at the local level.
In a post-Macondo world, it’s becoming apparent that the role of IADC and its HSE, training and competence assurance programs will become even more essential and valuable. WellCAP, which has issued more than 200,000 certificates since its launch in 1995, will continue to ensure high standards of well control training for our industry. HSE Rig Pass will do the same for health, safety and environment training.
Going forward, the IADC HSE Case Guidelines will serve an invaluable role as US regulators adopt Safety Case requirements for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. IADC believes that the Safety Case, compared with more prescriptive regulations, can be an effective regulatory tool for the industry in the US, as it has been elsewhere in the world.
In the challenging weeks and months ahead, IADC will work closely with our members and government regulators to bring an explicit end to the drilling moratorium.
It’s time to get back to work.