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BSEE halts study of offshore oil and gas inspection program

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Washington — The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has issued a stop-work order for a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study reviewing BSEE’s offshore oil and gas operations inspection program, the National Academies announced Dec. 21.

“The stop-work order, dated Dec. 7, says that within 90 days the stop-work order will either be lifted and work on the study can resume, or the contract to perform the study will be terminated,” a National Academies press release states.

The study was scheduled to last 21 months and produced one meeting, which took place Oct. 26 and 27 in Washington.

“Future meetings planned to be held in the Gulf of Mexico region have been put on hold,” the release states. “The National Academies are grateful to the committee members for their service and disappointed that their important study has been stopped.”

The study sought to address the following questions:

  • What should be the goal of BSEE’s inspection program?
  • How can inspections be modified to focus on risk and enhancing safety in addition to ensuring compliance, and what additional data is needed to achieve this end?
  • What can BSEE learn from the inspections programs of other offshore regulators in countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico?
  • What is the appropriate role for independent third parties in determining compliance with requirements and verifying companies are conducting activities in accordance with their safety and environmental management systems and associated management documents; how does the regulator ensure third parties are acting appropriately in the public interest; and how can BSEE’s inspector staff’s work and budget be reallocated to enhancing safety?
  • What is the appropriate role of remote monitoring and other safety-enhancing technologies regarding inspections?
  • What should be the principal features of the inspection program in five and 10 years?
  • What competencies would inspectors require in a revised regime, what kinds of training for the existing staff would be needed, and what types and competencies would BSEE need to recruit to match its staff to appropriate competencies?

In 2013, BSEE formed the independent Ocean Energy Safety Institute in response to a recommendation from the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee, which was established after the April 2010 explosion and fire that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

BSEE launched a pilot program in December 2015 that aimed to analyze data from audits and annual inspections in an effort to improve safety at offshore oil and gas operations.

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