BSEE proposes revisions to post-Macondo offshore oil, gas rules

May 7, 2018
The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement proposed changes to a number of offshore oil and gas safety and environmental regulations put into place following the 2010 Macondo deepwater well blowout and subsequent massive crude oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement proposed changes to a number of offshore oil and gas safety and environmental regulations put into place following the 2010 Macondo deepwater well blowout and subsequent massive crude oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

The US Department of the Interior agency submitted proposed blowout preventer (BOP) and well control rules to the Federal Register on Apr. 27 for publication in the coming week, when a 60-day public comment period will commence, BSEE Director Scott A. Angelle said during a teleconference.

“We absolutely believe that safety, coupled with environmental stewardship, will provide the US a strong offshore energy future. We also know that resources on the Outer Continental Shelf are important today and will be important to our future energy needs,” said Katharine MacGregor, DOI’s principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, who also participated.

Angelle said BSEE’s team of career engineers and regulatory specialists reviewed the rules over the past year and identified certain provisions that were overly burdensome, unclear, and impractical.

They determined that these provisions, through their implementation, have required BSEE to repeatedly grant permission to use alternate procedures or equipment, Angelle said. The team also identified additional long-standing policies that could be incorporated into the regulations, he said.

“We went through the Well Control Rule’s 342 provisions, and are recommending changes in 18% of them,” Angelle said. “We also overlaid the proposed changes with more than 400 recommendations MMS received from 14 external organizations expressed in 26 reports [following the accident and spill]. We can confidently say that not one of the changes we propose has ignored a single one of those recommendations.”

A fact sheet posted to BSEE’s web site emphasized that the proposed changes would not:

• Eliminate the BOP requirements or the BOP itself.

• Remove real-time monitoring requirements.

• Remove drilling margin requirements.

• Remove third-party requirements for BOP testing.

• Remove failure reporting to BSEE.

• Eliminate the BOP dual-shear ram requirement.

• Remove remotely operated vehicle (ROV) requirements.

• Eliminate the containment requirements for a fast response if a blowout were to occur.

It said the proposed changes would let leaseholders use real time monitoring in a less prescriptive way and adapt it for their needs; allow or the combination of the shearing rams to be able to shear the pipe, tubing, or wireline in the hole; and reduce the number of alternate compliances that were granted since the 2016 rule was adopted.

“Our economic analysis shows that the cost savings of these changes over 10 years will be $946 million,” Angelle said.

Officials from the American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association welcomed the news.

“As with all regulations, it is important that offshore safety regulations—including BSEE’s Well Control Rule—constantly evolve and are revised based upon new insights and developments in the offshore exploration and development field,” API Upstream and Industry Operations Director Erik Milito said.

“Instead of locking in regulatory provisions that may actually increase risk in operations, it is critical that revisions are made that enhance the regulatory framework to ensure updated, modern, and safe technologies, best practices, and operations,” Milito said.

“The 60-day comment period for the proposed rule is appreciated and provides an additional opportunity for industry experts to address provisions that may increase risk or reduce safety. As we digest the details of the proposed rule, NOIA and our members look forward to offering constructive feedback to BSEE,” NOIA Pres. Randall B. Luthi said.

The proposed changes also exemplify why regulations are best left to regulating agencies as opposed to making regulations by statute, Luthi said. “Particularly in the offshore energy industry, technology and standards are continually being upgraded, and it is unlikely that Congress would revise a standard or regulation often enough to keep pace with technology and maintain the highest in safety measures,” he said.