Revised Well Control Rule Critical to Meet Offshore Challenges
Posted April 30, 2019
Soon the federal government is expected to release its updated offshore well control rule, one that improves on its 2016 predecessor by providing flexibility to meet specific challenges across a variety of offshore conditions while encouraging innovation and technologies that help improve safety.
We expect that opponents of natural gas and oil development anywhere to attack the updated rule when it’s released. Yet, fact and logic will weigh heavily against them.
Fact: The U.S. natural gas and oil industry has invested heavily in technologies and standards-setting to make offshore energy development safer – for our workers and the environment. Here’s a snapshot of API offshore safety standards (click image to enlarge):
Fact: Industry has published more than 100 new or revised exploration and production standards over the past 10 years, which have strengthened offshore safety.
Fact: The Center for Offshore Safety promotes a continuous, ever-improving approach to safety that includes drilling, completions and overall operations. The center is critically important to strengthening industry’s safety culture by helping operators develop Safety and Environmental Management Systems.
Fact: Well intervention and containment consortiums created in 2010 provide technology and response capabilities in the event of an incident thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface: The Marine Well Containment Company and the HWCG, LLC. Operators are required to show that they can access this equipment and staff resources if there was a need to cap a well or capture uncontrolled hydrocarbons.
Logic: Safety is core to responsible offshore development and sustaining public confidence in tapping offshore oil and natural gas that’s integral to America’s economy and energy security. Industry’s commitment to safety – highlighted by advanced technology and rigorous training – is foundational to working in the offshore. Erik Milito, API vice president for upstream and industry operations:
“Offshore energy development is safer than ever. Technological advances, as well as collaborative efforts by the industry and regulators, have helped to continuously advance safety systems and standards. This progress goes hand-in-hand with the proposed revisions to a number of offshore regulations to ensure that smarter and more effective regulations are constantly evolving, as we move forward with safe and responsible offshore development.”
Regulation has a critical role to play – smart regulation that allows industry the flexibility to adapt to various offshore conditions while also fostering innovations that help make operations safer – even as industry works to meet America’s energy needs. The administration’s revised well-control rule would follow this approach:
- Fix flawed requirements in the previous rule that had technical problems, detailed in comments to federal officials.
- Establish a performance-based standard so that an approved safe drilling margin can be established on a case-by-case basis using data and analysis that’s specific to individual wells.
- Keep decision-making with onsite well personnel, subject to federal regulatory authority, because they have the best understanding of current operations, key risks and critical factors to consider.
See this summary on updates to the well-control rule and blowout preventer systems.
The overarching point is this: Safe offshore operations are in everyone’s best interest. Offshore energy is strategically important to the nation’s economy and overall security. Supplying this energy safely is an industry responsibility – one it takes seriously, as evidenced by continuous enhancements to industry standards and innovative technologies. API and six other organizations, in comments to the Interior Department last August:
We are committed to safe operations and support effective regulations in the area of blowout preventer systems and well control. … Our collective commitment to safe operations motivates us to ensure that the regulations in place foster safe operations today and into the future. … The oil and natural gas industry is committed to developing and producing domestic energy resources for the benefit of all Americans and doing so in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and five grandchildren.
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