Interior Department Issues New Offshore Drilling Rules

The US Interior Department had been expected to issue two new regulations for oil and gas drilling safety this week. As a maritime attorney, I have been hoping the new rules will increase safety for offshore workers and prevent repeats of the Gulf of Mexico oil explosion disaster. Yesterday, the agency released two new rules that aim to help improve drilling safety by establishing stronger requirements for safety equipment, blowout prevention and well control systems. According to a representative of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, under the new rules, drilling operators will need to comply with stricter standards that cover everything from well- design and cementing practices to worker training. Companies are also required to develop comprehensive risk and hazard management practices and programs. The systems will help reduce the impact of human error. It will include proper practices for cementing and casing. The cementing of the well has been a major issue under investigation in the Gulf of Mexico disaster. The rules will also address the appropriate use of drilling fluids. It will also establish the mechanisms in place to oversee systems that are designed to shut off oil and gas flow in an emergency. This includes the blowout preventer as well as all of its components. The rules are the latest in a series of measures adopted by the Interior Department since the Transocean-BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in April. The measures touch every step of the exploration process, including planning, review, and drilling. Meanwhile, the Interior Department says that it will continue with its reforms, and introduce new measures that will strengthen offshore safety. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is also looking at other reforms, including a possible independent third-party verification of SEMS programs. Image Courtesy: Flickr -eschipul

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