Offshore oil well safety rules implemented by Interior Department

The Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement regulations for oil well safety include more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for offshore oil and gas operations.

By Gregory Hale, ISSSource May 17, 2016

Oil well control rules released late last week are designed to prevent a blowout like the one that happened six years ago on the BP-controlled Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s finalized regulations include more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for offshore oil and gas operations.

The new standards come nearly six years after the deadly explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the cost of Louisiana, which led to the worst oil spill of all time.

The Macondo well blowout and the fire on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and injured 16 others. The rule took six years to complete because the agency wanted to understand the root cause of the disaster, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

"There are a number of things that went wrong," she said. "It was important that we understood those things and the evolution of technology."

The Interior Department said it took into account industry and other stakeholder feedback since it first proposed the rule last April. To improve the "culture of safety" on oil rigs and prevent future spills or blowouts, the new rule tightens requirements for blowout preventers, well design, well control casing, cementing and sub-sea containment.

It also calls for real-time monitoring, third-party reviews of equipment, regular inspections and safe drilling margin requirements.

The agency estimated the new rule would cost the industry $890 million over a 10-year period, but would yield $1.5 billion in benefits.

Offshore drilling has seen at least 1,066 injuries, 496 fires and explosions, 22 losses of well control, 11 big oil spills and 11 fatalities since the Deepwater Horizon accident, according to the Interior Department.

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (ISSSource.com), a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on ISSSource.com. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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