U.S. to update oil & gas drilling regulations in push to reduce regulatory burden

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has proposed to update regulations covering offshore oil and gas drilling operations.

The BSEE said last Friday that the regulation updates would improve reliability, safety, efficiency, and environmental stewardship as well as reduce unnecessary burdens on operators.

The bureau reviewed the existing regulations in response to Executive and Secretary’s Orders instructing it to identify ways to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens while ensuring that offshore oil and gas drilling operations were conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

The Proposed Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule was submitted to the Federal Register on April 27 for publication to open the 60-day public comment period.

BSEE Director Scott Angelle said: “These reform efforts are part of the Trump Administration’s push for smart and safe energy development. We’ll continue to work to do our job smarter and to ensure the industry is exploring and operating safely.”

According to the BSEE, a team of engineers and regulatory specialists reviewed the rule over the past year and identified certain provisions that were overly burdensome, unclear, and impractical. The team also identified additional long-standing policies that could be incorporated into the regulations.

The bureau added that it analyzed all 342 provisions of the 2016 Well Control Final Rule, and determined that 59 of those provisions – less than 18% – were appropriate for proposed updating and revision.

BSEE compared each of the proposed changes to the 424 recommendations arising from 26 separate reports from 14 different organizations developed in the wake of, and in response to, the Deepwater Horizon incident.

The team determined that none of the proposed rule changes would ignore or contradict any of those recommendations, or would alter any provision of the 2016 Well Control Final Rule in a way that would make the result inconsistent with those recommendations.

“[…] nothing in this proposed rule would alter any elements of other rules promulgated since Deepwater Horizon, including the Drilling Safety Rule, SEMS I, and SEMS II,” BSEE said.

“We look forward to the public comment dialogue and to providing America with smart regulations that ensure safe exploration for America’s energy future,” added Angelle.

The proposed revisions would amend the testing protocol for blowout preventers, modify capability requirements for remotely operated vehicles, remove duplicative verification requirements, and codify recent revisions to industry standards.

Last month, the BSEE announced its decision to increase physical inspection time offshore and began the implementation of a new risk-based inspection program.