Friday, April 17, 2015

Department of the Interior Announces Proposed Regulations For Sea Drilling

U.S. Department of the Interior announced proposed regulations to better protect lives and the environment from oil spills in response to the findings of investigations into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The regulations come following a thorough evaluation of recommendations from industry groups, equipment manufacturers, federal agencies, academia and environmental organizations. The measures include more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for critical well control equipment used in offshore oil and gas operations.

Credit: NOAA
The proposed rule addresses the range of systems and equipment related to well control operations. The measures are designed to improve equipment reliability, building on enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers and blowout prevention technologies. The rule also includes reforms in well design, well control, casing, cementing, real-time well monitoring and subsea containment.

The well control measures would implement multiple recommendations from various investigations and reports of the Deepwater Horizon incident that includes nearly 370 specific recommendations, followed by extensive outreach to derive further enhancements from stakeholder input, academia, and industry best practices, standards and specifications.

An essential piece of safety equipment used in offshore drilling operations called the blowout preventer was a point of failure in the Deepwater Horizon incident. Other failures resulted in the loss of well control, an explosion, fire and subsequent months-long spill.

The announcement is another step in the most ambitious reform agenda in the agency’s history to strengthen, update and modernize offshore energy regulations. It has made sweeping reforms for safe and responsible development, overhauling federal oversight by restructuring to provide independent regulatory agencies that have clear missions and are better resourced to carry out their work, while keeping pace with a rapidly evolving industry.

Comments on the proposed regulations during the 60-day comment period that began April 15, 2015, when the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register. Comments may be submitted at

The proposed regulations are available at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.