US offshore producers get glimpse of increased regulation

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, May 1 – US offshore producers received their first taste of the increased regulation likely to result from the deadly Apr. 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire as the resulting spill prepared to test industry and governmental response capability.

The Department of the Interior has provided details of the Offshore Safety Oversight Board established by Sec. Ken Salazar Apr. 30 (OGJ Online, Apr. 30, 2010).

Comprising two assistant secretaries of the Interior and the department’s inspector general, the board at first will oversee the investigation of the mishap begun Apr. 27 by Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, and Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Officials of MMS and the Coast Guard chair the effort, which is to make a formal report within 9 months.

The board also will make recommendations about interim measures to enhance OCS safety and about ways to strengthen management, regulation, and oversight of OCS operations.

The Transocean Deepwater Horizon was drilling the well in 4,992 ft of water when the explosion occurred, leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead.

Spill responses
The spill, fed by an estimated 5,000 b/d of crude oil leaking from the BP Macondo well on Mississippi Canyon Block 252, continued to spread May 1, threatening the Louisiana coast.

Forecasts of a wind shift indicated the oil might turn eastward and threaten Mississippi and Alabama.

The oil slick forced shutdown of two production platforms and evacuation of one of them, halting production of 6.2 MMcfd of natural gas.

BP, operator of the well, was responding to the spill in conjunction with a team encompassing 16 federal agencies.

The response team said on May 1 nearly 2,000 persons and 75 response vessels were working on the spill, having deployed more than 275,000 ft of boom, 60,000 ft more than the day before.

In addition to boom materials arriving at the coast to enhance industry spill-control capability, the Department of Defense approved deployment of two aircraft able to spray dispersant. The response team said each aircraft can cover as much as 250 acres/flight and make three flights/day.

On May 1, responders had recovered more than 1 million gal of oil-water mix.

BP continued trying to stop the flow of oil at the blowout preventer and was attempting to use a new technology for dispersing oil at the seabed. It also is fabricating a subsea containment apparatus.

BP plans to drill a relief well with the Transocean Development Driller III semisubmersible, which is on site.

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