US proposes restoration of offshore drilling safety rules

The US has proposed the reintroduction of offshore drilling safety measures that it said would help prevent oil spills and protect workers and the environment.

The proposal from the Biden administration aims to restore the safety provisions put in place by the Obama administration in 2016 following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill, which was the worst in US history. In 2019 the Trump administration reduced the degree of regulation, which the oil and gas industry had said was an unnecessary financial burden.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said on a call with reporters that the changes would incorporate the latest industry technology improvements. “As our nation transitions to a clean energy economy, we will continue strengthening and modernizing offshore energy standards and oversight,” Haaland said.

The rule revisions will tighten technical requirements of blowout prevention systems and mandate speedier failure investigations. They also require companies to submit failure data directly to the BSEE rather than to third parties.

The Department of the Interior is proposing revisions that would:

  • Require blowout preventer systems (BOPs) to be able to close and seal the wellbore to the well’s kick tolerance design at all times;
  • Remove the option for operators to submit failure data to designated third parties and instead require the direct submittal of failure data to BSEE;
  • Require failure analysis and investigations to start within 90 days instead of 120 days;
  • Require independent third parties to be accredited by a qualified standards development organization;
  • Specify that surface BOPs on existing floating facilities must follow the dual shear ram requirements when replacing an entire BOP stack;
  • Require that remotely operated vehicles be capable of opening and closing each shear ram on a BOP; and
  • Require the operator to provide test results to BSEE within 72 hours after completion of the tests if BSEE is unable to witness testing.

The proposal will be open to public comment until November 14th.

Oil industry trade group the National Ocean Industries Association said it would review the proposal and work with federal regulators to ensure that the changes increase safety.