MMS official warns IADC about security, safety of offshore facilities

Michael Sumrow
Drilling Editor
Oil and Gas Journal

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 28 -- The Gulf of Mexico Offshore Operators Committee will meet here Oct. 10 to discuss how to protect production facilities from terrorist attacks.

Carolita Kallaur, a US Minerals Management Service official, said her agency would participate in the talks. Other participants will be the US Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department.

A committee official said offshore drilling and production personnel will discuss security issues undertaken, mutual assistance measures, and identification procedures.

Kallaur told the annual meeting of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) that MMS knows of no specific threats against offshore oil installations.

She told the drilling contractors that the recent "attacks represent challenges that go far beyond the technical ones that you've had to face in the past."

Kallaur, associate director for offshore minerals management, said the Coast Guard would be the lead agency on the security issue although MMS is preparing a study.

She added, "I think you are all aware that offshore oil and gas production is an important part of our energy equation and even more important today. The MMS stand ready to work with the IADC and the offshore industry to take all appropriate steps to ensure not only the security of the energy supply, but also the security of the people who work offshore."

Safety issues
Kallaur also raised concerns about offshore safety and training issues.

She noted, "The number of fatalities is down from 14 in 1998 to 5 each year in 1999 and 2000 and 4 so far in 2001. We all recognize that any fatality is bad and we need to do everything we can to reduce the number to zero.

"The bad news is that the number of well control incidents has been on the rise, increasing from five in 1999 to nine in 2000 and seven so far this year." She said MMS has changed its terminology, eliminating the term "blowout." Kallaur explained, "We believe loss of well control is more accurate since it includes diverter incidents in the classification."

MMS also has reclassified its definition of fires. "We recognize that most fires are of short duration and cause little or no damage. We have listed those as incidental fires. Reporting this way, we can show the public that major and catastrophic fires are very rare."

Kallaur said MMS is concerned about crane accidents. She said 52 such incidents since October 1998 have resulted in 5 fatalities and 28 injuries.

"We requested that the American Petroleum Institute revise its recommended practices for offshore crane operation and maintenance, to include regular training. API was very responsive and since that time we have incorporated the revised recommended practice into our regulation.

"In April this year we've began checking for proof of such training and everyone we've checked with had the training in place." She said MMS has proposed to incorporate those API specifications into its regulations.

She also said, "Since 1995, there have been 34 well control incidents in the Gulf of Mexico, 10 of those were caused by poor cementing practices. As a result we have requested that API prepare standards to address best cementing practices. They have formed a work group to address this issue and we're participants in the group."

Kallaur said MMS has completed proposed rules that would provide for a third party system for accreditation of well control production schools, or in the alternative, have MMS accredit the school.

She acknowledged that IADC has operated its WellCAP program for a number of years and there are no organizations with a comparable production safety accreditation system, although several are capable.

"One thing I want to make clear, that from an agency perspective, we would like to get out of the accreditation business. It's clearly not an area where we have any particular expertise."

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