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Offshore safety agency seeks to refine approval process for uses of ‘new or unusual technology’

off-shore rig
Photo: pichitstocker/iStockphoto

Washington — The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has issued a proposed rule that would codify existing agency practice concerning the review and approval of projects proposing to use “new or unusual technology.”

The rule would apply to technologies that incorporate equipment or procedures that haven’t previously been used under anticipated operating conditions or in a particular BSEE Outer Continental Shelf region, or that feature operating characteristics outside those established in 30 CFR Part 250. This classification also includes equipment used in high-pressure (exceeding 15,000 pounds per square inch absolute) and/or high-heat environments (above 350° F).

In a notice published in the May 16 Federal Register, BSEE claims the proposal would “improve operational safety and human health and environmental protections” as well as offer clarity and consistency, by:

  • Requiring submission of information in a sequence that provides operators and BSEE the ability to evaluate whether a new or unusual technology project is economically and operationally feasible.
  • Adding specific equipment requirements, particularly for barriers, through new regulations and incorporation of industry standards.
  • Requiring independent third-party review of operator submissions, in certain cases, or providing BSEE with the ability to require such review, to ensure product viability and safety.

“Together, these regulations would ensure that operators consider and submit sufficient information to BSEE at an early stage in the process so that the operator and BSEE can adequately address any issues concerning equipment selection, design and fabrication,” the notice states.

“BSEE serves the American people as the lead federal agency for overseeing safe and environmentally responsible offshore energy production,” BSEE Director Kevin Sligh, who succeeded Scott Angelle on March 25, said in a press release. “The rules BSEE promulgates are critical to ensuring the offshore energy industry drives down risks of injury to offshore workers and protects the offshore environment, and this rule is particularly important for maintaining safe operations as the industry starts encountering more challenging operating conditions.”

Comments on the proposed rule are due July 15.

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