U.S. Revisits Blowout Preventer Rules

By The Maritime Executive 04-28-2018 07:54:44

The Trump administration has proposed relaxing rules put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. On Friday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) proposed changes that include removing “prescriptive requirements” for real-time monitoring of offshore drilling facilities, modifying capability requirements for remotely operated vehicles and making allowance for independent third-parties to undertake some certification of blow-out preventers.

The Deepwater Horizon's failed blowout preventer led to the leaking of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from April 20 to July 15 in 2010. 

Scott Angelle, director of BSEE, said that the agency would never put offshore workers or the environment at greater risk. “At the same time, we are equally dedicated to addressing overly burdensome regulations and, even more so, to amending or eliminating regulations that may decrease safety or increase the chances of environmental harm.”

The Proposed Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule is the result of analysis of all 342 provisions of the 2016 Well Control Final Rule, says Angelle. It was determined that 59 of those provisions were appropriate for 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.

Industry body NOIA's President Randall Luthi said that, as written, the existing rule is flawed with technical deficiencies and ambiguities that detract from safe operations. “BSEE’s proposed revisions to the Well Control Rule will enhance safety and decrease risk offshore.”

However, the Center for Biological Diversity sees the changes as a weakening of the rules and notes that they come just months after the administration released an unprecedented plan to vastly expand offshore oil and gas drilling into all U.S. oceans.

“Workers and wildlife will pay a terrible price if these rollbacks are finalized,” says Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The next offshore oil disaster is inevitable, especially if the Trump administration keeps ignoring Deepwater Horizon’s lessons.”

The proposal will be published this week and open to a 60-day public comment period.