BSEE issues final offshore drilling safety regulations

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued its final offshore drilling safety rule. It strengthens requirements for safety equipment, well-control systems, and blowout prevention practices developed following the 2010 Macondo deepwater well blowout and oil spill, BSEE said on Aug. 15.

It said an interim safety rule was issued soon after the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig fire and explosion killed 11 people on Apr. 20, 2010, setting off a massive oil spill when it sank the following day.

“This rule makes final important standards that were put in place shortly after that spill and is based on input from stakeholders and recommendations from the numerous investigations related to that tragedy,” BSEE Director James A. Watson noted.

The oil and gas industry has operated under enhanced offshore safety requirements for the past 2 years, he added. More than 750 Gulf of Mexico deepwater and shallow-water drilling permits were approved during that period, according to BSEE.

It said the interim safety rule was issued under an emergency rule-making process that established new standards for casing and cementing, including integrity testing requirements; third-party certification and verification requirements; blowout preventer (BOP) capability, testing, and documentation obligations; and standards for specific well control training, to include deepwater operations.

The final rule improves upon an interim final rule by addressing requirements for compliance with documents incorporated by reference; enhancing the description and classification of well-control barriers; defining testing requirements for cement; clarifying requirements for the installation of dual mechanical barriers; and extending requirements for BOPs and well-control fluids to well-completions, workovers, and decommissioning operations, BSEE said.

The American Petroleum Institute is reviewing the final rule and hopes that BSEE carefully considered the language used in it, a spokesman said soon after the US Department of the Interior agency’s announcement.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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