Home Office moves to tighten offshore safety standards

Proposed Revisions to the 2019 Well Control Rule Will Help Strengthen Safe and Environmentally Responsible Energy Operations

The Interior Department has announced a proposed new rule to ensure that offshore oil and gas operations on the outer continental shelf are conducted to the highest standards of safety and oversight. This rule proposed by the Bureau of Safety and Environment (BSEE) builds on reforms instituted by the Department since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy that killed 11 offshore workers, caused billions of dollars in damage and had lasting impacts on the environmental landscape of the Gulf of Mexico.

Proposed revisions to the 2019 Well Control Rule, which will be in the Federal Register this week, focus on well integrity and blowout prevention. These innovations will help protect human lives and the environment by incorporating the latest technologies and lessons learned from operator experience and incident data since the adoption of the current rule.

The Department is proposing the revisions after concluding its review of the current rule pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order 13990, Protect public health and the environment and restore science to address the climate crisis.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to the highest standards of worker safety and environmental protection. This proposed regulation will help ensure that offshore energy development uses the latest science and technology to keep people safe,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As our nation transitions to a clean energy economy, we must commit to strengthening and modernizing offshore energy standards and oversight.”

“Protecting human life and the environment has always been BSEE’s top priority, and this regulatory proposal will further ensure safe and environmentally friendly offshore power generation,” said Director of BSEE, Kevin M. Sligh Sr. “These proposed revisions to the Well Control Rule are the result of knowledge and experience gained by stakeholders and BSEE since the rule was implemented in 2019. They will protect worker lives and the environment. potentially devastating effects of eruptions and oil spills.

Immediately after the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010, the BSEE adopted several recommendations from several investigation teams to improve the safety of offshore energy operations, which led to the publication of the 2016 Well Control Rule. May 2019, the BSEE issued a final rule that weakened some security provisions. The rule proposed today would revise some of the items that were changed or canceled in 2019.

To better protect human lives and the environment, the Department is proposing revisions that:

  • Require blowout preventer (BOP) systems to be able to close and seal the wellbore within the wellbore kick tolerance design at all times;
  • Remove the option for operators to submit failure data to designated third parties and instead require direct submission of failure data to BSEE;
  • Require failure analysis and investigations to begin within 90 days instead of 120 days;
  • Require independent third parties to be accredited by a qualified standards development organization;
  • Specify that surface BOPs on existing floating installations must meet double shear ram requirements when replacing an entire BOP stack;
  • Require remotely operated vehicles to be able to open and close each shear ram on a BOP; and
  • Require operator to provide test results to BSEE within 72 hours of completion of testing if BSEE is unable to attend testing.

Publication of the proposed rule also initiates a 60-day public comment period. Members of the public can submit comments on the proposed regulations until November 14, 2022.

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Source: BSEE

Betty K. Park