CERAWeek: BP outlines new deepwater drilling policies

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Mar. 8 -- US drilling regulators need to find a balance between ensuring offshore safety without placing unnecessary constraints on operators, BP PLC Chief Executive Robert Dudley told the IHS-CERA energy conference.

“But ensuring that outcome means the industry has to go further than ever before to ensure safe operations—wider than the upstream, wider than the US,” Dudley said. The April 2010 blowout of the deepwater Macondo well off Louisiana resulted in a massive oil spill. BP operated Macondo.

BP is implementing company policies in which it will not drill a deepwater reservoir using a dynamically positioned vessel unless BP already has plans and equipment for shutting in the well and drilling a relief well, Dudley said. The new policy also requires that BP stands ready to launch an emergency response.

“If anyone ever has to manage a simultaneous operation involving 50 surface vessels and 16 subsea remotely operated vehicles in a radius of 1 mile, then our experience from last year may be useful,” he said.

Since Macondo, Dudley said industry has developed new technologies, systems, and equipment through innovations from both oil companies and contractors.

“We believe we have a responsibility to share our learning with those who can benefit from it—including our competitors, partners, governments, regulators,” he said.

BP is enhancing its standards for blowout preventer testing, cementing, well-integrity testing, rig audits, and other well operations, he said. BP is working with industry groups to determine if spill prevention standards can be enhanced industry-wide.

“In 10 years’ time, I would expect that there will be a new generation of blowout preventers that represent a major advance on the ones we use today,” Dudley said.

BP implemented new standards for its cementing-services oversight including an approval process and stringent contractor lab-quality audits, he said. Regarding its containment efforts, BP is building a next-generation capping stack based on what was learned from the one that shut in the Macondo well, he said.

BP also continues to enhance the real-time ranging technology developed during the drilling of the Macondo relief well.

“This cuts the time needed for logging from about 2 days to about 6 hr because the drill bit doesn’t have to be removed,” Dudley said. A ranging tool was field tested on a land rig in Wyoming before using it in the gulf, and more work is needed to improve the tool’s mechanical reliability for future wells, he said.

BP also is reviewing the physical cleanup efforts to see what technology needs additional development. One innovation developed during the Macondo spill response was equipment called the sand shark that lifts and sifts beach sand to remove oil.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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