Interior proposes to amend some 2019 offshore safety rules

Oct. 3, 2022

The Biden administration proposed Sept. 12 to revise some of the 2019 Trump administration offshore safety regulations, which themselves were revisions to Obama administration rules.

The procedural and technical regulations developed in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, when 11 men died after a blowout preventer failed to stop the Macondo well blowout on a bp PLC project.

Regulatory changes to improve safety came in stages over the years following the disaster, then the Trump administration made its own changes with the idea of adding some safety provisions and making pragmatic adjustments to others without compromising safety (OGJ Online, May 2, 2019).

President Biden’s Interior Department, unveiling its proposed rule from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), disagreed with its predecessor on some of the safety details.

“In May 2019, BSEE published a final rule that weakened certain safety provisions,” Interior’s announcement said. “Today’s proposed rule would revise some of the items that were amended or rescinded in 2019.”

Tougher standards

The proposed rule would require blowout preventers to be able to close and seal the wellbore to the well’s kick tolerance design at all times.

It would specify that surface blowout preventers on existing infrastructure must follow the dual shear ram requirements when replacing an entire blowout preventer stack.

The rule would require that remotely operated vehicles be capable of opening and closing each shear ram on a blowout preventer.

Test results would need to be submitted to BSEE within 72 hours if BSEE is unable to witness testing. Failure data would need to be submitted directly to BSEE. Failure analysis and investigations would need to start in 90 days instead of 120 days.

Independent third parties would need to be accredited by a qualified standards development organization.

It gets technical

Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, offered a cautionary comment in a Sept. 12 press release saying his association would work with the regulators on the subject.

“The 2019 revision to the Well Control Rule addressed technical problems and cleared up ambiguity with the original rulemaking,” Milito said. He urged that changes to the highly technical rule flow through subject-matter experts to provide decisions based on sound engineering practices and design.

Publication of the proposed rule was scheduled for Sept. 14 in the Federal Register. That will kick off a 60-day public comment period.