USA: BSEE Announces Offshore Drilling Safety Rule


As part of the Obama Administration’s continuing commitment to expanding safe and responsible offshore energy exploration and development, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) announced the issuance of a final drilling safety rule.

The rule makes final the important safety reforms put in place in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which significantly improved drilling safety by strengthening requirements for safety equipment, well control systems, and blowout prevention practices on offshore oil and gas operations, and which companies have effectively complied with for nearly two years. In that time over 750 drilling permits for shallow water and deepwater activities in the Gulf of Mexico have been approved.

“The administration’s priority is continuing to expand offshore oil and gas development, while ensuring that drilling operations in our oceans continue to be the safest in the world,” said BSEE Director Jim Watson. “This rule makes final important standards that were put in place shortly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and is based on input from stakeholders and recommendations from the numerous investigations related to that tragedy.”

The Drilling Safety Rule was initially issued under an emergency rule-making process to implement urgent safety measures immediately following the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The Interim Drilling Safety Rule provided opportunities for public comment, and the Final Rule issued includes refinements to the rule based on consideration of those comments.

“The oil and gas industry has been operating under these enhanced safety requirements for the past two years,” said Watson. “This action builds on the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and is part of the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand safe and responsible development of America’s domestic energy resources.”

The Drilling Safety Rule improves upon pre-Deepwater Horizon regulations by establishing new standards for casing and cementing, including integrity testing requirements; third-party certification and verification requirements; blowout preventer (BOP) capability, testing, and documentation obligations; and standards for specific well control training, to include deepwater operations.

Today’s Final Rule refines the Interim Final Rule by addressing requirements for compliance with documents incorporated by reference; enhancing the description and classification of well-control barriers; defining testing requirements for cement; clarifying requirements for the installation of dual mechanical barriers; and extending requirements for BOPs and well-control fluids to well-completions, workovers, and decommissioning operations.

Press Release, August 16, 2012