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Offshore drilling safety rule gets update

Deepwater Horizon

Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is reinstating several previously withdrawn provisions of a final rule intended to address gaps in offshore drilling safety identified after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BSEE developed the 2016 Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control final rule after its investigation of the Deepwater Horizon incident concluded that the rig’s blowout preventer, or BOP, was a main contributor to the explosion. Eleven workers were killed and millions of barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

Citing “unnecessary regulatory burdens,” a 2019 revision of the rule rolled back about 20% of the original rule’s 342 provisions, including those concerning BOP design, maintenance and repair.

Provisions of the updated regulation include requiring:

  • BOPs to be able to always close and seal the wellbore to the well’s maximum anticipated surface pressure, except as otherwise specified in the BOP system requirement section of the regulations.
  • Failure data to be reported to both a designated third party and BSEE.
  • Failure analysis and investigations to begin within 90 days of an incident.
  • Independent, third-party qualifications to be submitted to BSEE with the associated permit applications.
  • The operator to provide BOP test results to BSEE within 72 hours after completion of the tests if the agency is unable to witness testing.

“Finalizing this rule will enable BSEE to continue to put the lives and livelihoods of workers first, as well as the protection of our waters and marine habitats,” BSEE Director Kevin Sligh said in a press release.

The rule is set to go into effect Oct. 23.

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