Offshore Drilling Safety Rule OK’d

Friday, August 17, 2012 @ 02:08 PM gHale

A final set of safety rules for offshore drilling gained approval this week in an effort to fine tune a series of emergency measures put in place after the BP oil disaster in 2010.

Oil industry groups said they were still poring over the 137-page rule released by the Interior Department. Environmentalists called the rules insufficient to prevent another catastrophe such as the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people and caused 200 million gallons of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

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Modifying Offshore Safety Practices

The goal of the safety measures is to make sure it is possible to stop oil flow if there are problems. They deal with the design of the wells and how they should go about testing cement and barriers used to secure the wells.

The rules also require that blowout preventers, which failed in the 2010 disaster, should undergo independent testing by a third party to ensure they are capable of cutting off the flow of oil.

“Today’s 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,” said Jim Watson, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The biggest change to the interim rules deals with industry standards broadly referenced as part of the rule. Industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, said the rule was confusing and could introduce new risk into the system. The interim rules made mandatory some measures the industry had made voluntary. The result was that some measures appeared to conflict with each other.

Watson said the changes incorporated input from stakeholders, suggestions from the public and recommendations from investigations that followed the spill.

The Interior Department said the final rules will cost the industry about $131 million annually to comply, or about $53 million less than the emergency rules. Among the changes, the department trimmed by about $86 million its estimate for how much it will cost to test remotely-operated underwater vehicles, such as those that provided video feeds of oil spilling into the Gulf in 2010.

“We are reviewing the rule and hope that they carefully considered the language used in the document to allow certainty and clarity for the industry,” said Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. “Our No. 1 priority is safety.”

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