BSEE issues revised blowout preventer, new well control system rules

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued revised offshore blowout preventer (BOP) and well control regulations on May 2. The changes remove unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protections, US Department of the Interior officials said.

May 2nd, 2019

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued revised offshore blowout preventer (BOP) and well control regulations on May 2. The changes remove unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protections, US Department of the Interior officials said.

“Today’s final rule puts safety first, both public and environmental safety, in a commonsense way,” said US Interior Sec. David L. Bernhardt during the announcement in Port Fourcheau, La. “Incorporating the best available science, best practices, and technological innovations of the past decade, the rule eliminates unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore.”

In its announcement, BSEE noted that the final revised rule leaves 274 out of 342 original Well Control Rule provisions—about 80%—unchanged. Sixty-eight provisions were identified as appropriate for revision, and 33 provisions were added to improve operations on the OCS. Following the direction of both Executive Order 13795 and Secretary's Order 3350, the final rule addresses offshore oil and gas drilling, completions, workovers, and decommissioning activities, it indicated.

BSEE said it also considered all 424 recommendations arising from 26 separate reports from 14 different organizations developed in in response to the Apr. 20, 2010, Macondo deepwater well blowout and subsequent explosion, which took 11 lives and destroyed the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig. As the vessel sank, it cut subsea lines and released an estimated 4.9 million bbl of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BSEE said it found that none of the revisions contravened any of these recommendations.

It said that the BOP design and testing requirement improvements include:

• Limiting the number of connection points to the BOP, reducing the number of potential failure points.

• Equipping each BOP with a high-flow receptacle to ensure faster delivery of fluid to perform the function from a remotely operated vehicle.

• Requiring an array of rams, which are steel covers designed to close rapidly around and over a drill pipe to stop the flow of hydrocarbons, with specific capabilities, allowing the most effective use of each ram type and maximizing their effective functions.

• Improving the expected lifespan of a critical BOP component by specifying a testing methodology that provides a readiness check without putting unnecessary wear and tear on the component.

Officials from major oil and gas associations welcomed the reforms. “This revised well control rule will help to further manage risks and better protect workers and the environment,” said Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s vice-president of upstream and industry operations. “The revision strengthens the rule and enhances a robust regulatory framework to ensure updated, modern, and safe technologies, best practices, and operations.”

Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell said, “The BSEE revisions to the Obama-era well control rule are common sense and will go far to increase the safety of all those who work in the offshore. The changes in the new rule allow for producers to be nimbler, with more adaptive guidelines based on the most up-to-date insights and innovative technology in the offshore exploration and development field.”

National Ocean Industries Association Pres. Randall B. Luthi noted, “Crafted to focus on ways to improve safety and allow companies to meet requirements in a safe, verifiable, and practical manner, the new rule will result in a stronger regulatory process. The narrowly focused revisions incorporate adaptive guidelines and innovative technology and will standardize the process for departures, or alternative compliance.”

International Association of Drilling Contractors Pres. Jason McFarland said, “This latest refinement of BSEE’s well control regulations, first introduced in July 2016, provide the necessary framework upon which evolving technology and performance-oriented best practices can be leveraged to sustain the safety and productivity of offshore oil and gas operations.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in Government
Economics & Markets
MARKET: Oil prices rise on tanker attacks