DOI issues directive with new offshore safety rules

The US Department of the Interior issued a directive to offshore oil and gas lessees and operators implementing seven safety requirements which Interior Sec. Ken Salazar recommended in his 30-day safety report to President Barack Obama.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 8 -- The US Department of the Interior issued a directive to offshore oil and gas lessees and operators implementing seven safety requirements which Interior Sec. Ken Salazar recommended in his 30-day safety report to President Barack Obama.

The June 8 notice to lessees applies to both deepwater and shallow-water operations, although drilling in water deeper than 500 ft remains under a 6-month moratorium ordered by Obama on May 27. It does not apply to shallow-water drilling and production in both deep and shallow water, which can continue if they comply with the new safety requirements, DOI said.

It said under the new requirements, lessees and operators will have to show certification by an operator’s chief executive officer that operations comply with all regulations and that drilling equipment has been tested, personnel have been properly trained, and procedures to protect employees and the environment have been reviewed.

Before any new drilling using a surface or subsea blowout preventer (BOP) begins, a professional engineer will need to certify all well casing and cement design requirements, including that there are at least two independent tested barriers for the well, and the operator will have to adhere to new casing procedures, DOI said.

Third-party verification
DOI said before drilling any new well, an operator will need to provide independent third-party verification that the BOP will operate properly with the rig’s drilling equipment and is compatible with the specific well location, borehole design, and drilling plan. Third-party verification also will need to show that blind-shear rams on the surface or subsea BOP stack are capable of shearing the drill pipe in the hole under maximum anticipated surface pressure, it said.

Operators also will need to adhere to inspection and reporting requirements for BOP and well control system configuration, BOP and well control test results, BOP and loss of well control events, and BOP and loss of well control system downtime, DOI said.

They also will need to have an independent third party verify, before spudding a new well, that BOP equipment used on a floating drilling rig has been recertified to ensure that it will operate as originally designed, and that any modifications or upgrades conducted after delivery have not compromised the system’s design or operation, the notice continued.

A secondary control system for subsea BOP stacks with remotely operated vehicle intervention capabilities, including the ability to close one set of blind-shear rams and one set of pipe rams, also will be required. The subsea BOP system will need to have an emergency shut-in system in the event of lost power, as well as a deadman system and an auto-shear system, DOI said.

Other requirements
Operators also will need to conduct hot stab function testing of the ROV intervention panel on subsurface BOP stacks, and document that the BOP has been maintained according to the regulations, it added.

Drilling operations not subject to the deepwater moratorium must fulfill their BOP reporting requirements by June 17 and submit the required safety certifications by June 28, the notice said. Failure to provide required certifications will result in an incident of noncompliance being issued and may result in a shut-in order, it warned.

DOI will issue expanded requirements for exploration plans and development plans on the US Outer Continental Shelf in coming days, said Robert V. Abbey, US Minerals Management Service acting director, who also continues to lead the US Bureau of Land Management.

“We are following an orderly responsible process for implementing stronger safety and environmental requirements of offshore drilling,” he said. “We need to make sure that drilling is done right, that it is done safely, and that oil and gas operators are following the law.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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