Stronger Regulations and Consistent Enforcement Could Have Prevented BP Oil Disaster
On September 16th, 2011 the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team released its final report on the explosion, loss of life, and oil spill disaster that occurred in April, 2010. Volume II of the report includes evidence that a number of federal offshore safety regulations under BOEMRE were violated by BP, Transocean, and Halliburton. These findings were both direct and contributing factors of the explosion and resulting oil disaster. The Panel found evidence that BP and, in some instances, its contractors violated the following federal regulations:
30 CFR § 250.107 – BP failed to protect health, safety, property, and the environment by (1) performing all operations in a safe and workmanlike manner; and (2) maintaining all equipment and work areas in a safe condition
30 CFR § 250.300 – BP, Transocean, and Halliburton (Sperry Sun) failed to take measures to prevent the unauthorized release of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico and creating conditions that posed unreasonable risk to public health, life, property, aquatic life, wildlife, recreation, navigation, commercial fishing, or other uses of the ocean;
30 CFR § 250.401 – BP, Transocean, and Halliburton (Sperry Sun) failed to take necessary precautions to keep the well under control at all times;
30 CFR § 250.420(a)(1) and (2) – BP and Halliburton failed to cement the well in a manner that would properly control formation pressures and fluids and prevent the release of fluids from any stratum through the wellbore into offshore waters;
30 CFR § 250.427(a) – BP failed to use pressure integrity test and related hole‐behavior observations, such as pore pressure test results, gas‐cut drilling fluid, and well kicks to adjust the drilling fluid program and the setting depth of the next casing string;
30 CFR § 250.446(a) – BP and Transocean failed to conduct major inspections of all BOP stack components; and
30 CFR § 250.1721(a) – BP failed to perform the negative test procedures detailed in an application for a permit to modify its plans.
In the wake of the release of the final report, BOEMRE also announced fundamental changes to restore safety and environmental protection of oil and gas drilling and production offshore. New safety measures include:
Enhanced Drilling Safety
• NTL-06 outlines potential blowout and worst case discharge
• The new Drilling Safety Rule calls for permits to be independently certified by a professional engineer.
• New guidance, through NTL-10, requires a corporate compliance statement and review of subsea blowout containment resources for deepwater drilling, a key lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Enhanced Workplace Safety
• Companies will now have to develop and maintain a Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) per the new Workplace Safety Rule.
Ongoing Improvements to the Offshore Regulator
• In the place of the former Mineral Management Service (MMS) is being replaced by three strong, independent agencies with clearly defined roles and missions.
• Director Bromwich established an Investigations and Review Unit to root out problems within the regulatory agency.
• The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), categorical exclusions are not being used to approve proposed deepwater drilling projects while they are being reviewed.
• The Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee will be a permanent advisory body of the nation’s leading scientific, engineering, and technical experts who provide critical guidance on improving offshore drilling safety, well containment, and spill response.
• BOEMRE believes that public input is critical as we safely explore and develop offshore resources.
• Director Bromwich seeks to expand the bureau’s field of inspectors and engineers.
• BOEMRE will be hiring environmental scientists in the coming months to do work in fields ranging from environmental studies to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review to environmental compliance – all of which are critical to the balanced development of offshore resources.
Read the full report here: http://www.boemre.gov/Reforms.htm