OTC: BOEMRE claims authority over offshore contractors

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, May 2 -- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement has broad legal authority over offshore oil and gas activities, including regulatory authority over contractors, BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich told the Offshore Technology Conference.

“We can exercise such authority as we deem appropriate,” Bromwich said during a May 2 OTC luncheon address. “The reason for our historical practice that has focused solely on regulating operators was that it served to preserve clarity and the singular responsibility of the operator.”

Safety is a major OTC topic this year following the deepwater Macondo well blowout on Apr. 20, 2010, that resulted in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil spill response and containment efforts were going on during the 2010 OTC.

This year’s OTC is the first such conference since US offshore drilling regulations were revised, requiring operators to cite their response plans in case of a blowout. The response plans are a mandatory part of the applications for drilling permits.

Bromwich said he is convinced BOEMRE can preserve the principle of holding operators fully responsible while also pursuing regulatory actions against contractors in case agency rules are violated.

“We will be careful and measured in extending our regulatory authority to contractors,” Bromwich said.

The agency also is developing changes to submitting and processing Applications for Permits to Drill (APD), he noted. “The guiding principles will be greater clarity, transparency, and consistency in the permitting process,” he said. “We will be providing more details on these improvements in the coming weeks.”

Drilling safety emphasized
GE Oil & Gas said it expanded its blowout preventer and remote monitoring and diagnostic technologies to increase drilling safety and reliability.

“The products are the result of renewed research and development focus and acceleration of projects to improve shearing capacity, monitoring of BOPs, and gas-handling capability,” said Claudi Santiago, GE Oil & Gas president and chief executive officer.

GE has developed a way to use hydrostatic pressure from the seawater surrounding a well for its assisted shearing system, which increases the force available for the shearing operation in case of a kick of fluids from the wells, he said.

In other May 2 announcements, Lloyd’s Register Group said it was awarded a global contract to provide technical services to Maersk’s floating production, storage, and offloading vessels.

“Maersk FPSOs are pleased to continue our relationship with Lloyd's Register for classification, verification, and integrity management services," said David McLean, Maersk FPSOs' chief operating officer.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com

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