DOI Finalizes Well Control Rule for Offshore Safety Standards

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Executive Summary:

  • Department of the Interior announces new measures to enhance offshore safety.
  • Focus: Outer Continental Shelf oil/gas operations.
  • Builds on post-2010 Deepwater Horizon regulations.
  • New rule revisions:
    • Blowout Preventer Systems (BOPs) must seal to max pressure.
    • Report failure data to third party, BSEE.
    • Start failure analysis within 90 days.
    • Submit third-party qualifications with permit applications.
    • Requirements specified for surface BOPs.
    • Remote vehicles control each BOP shear ram.
    • Provide BSEE with BOP test results within 72 hours
  • Proposed rule: Sept. 12, 2022, with 60-day public comment.

Unedited Press Release Text:

Interior Department Finalizes Well Control Rule to Strengthen Offshore Safety Standards

Revisions to 2019 rule will help bolster safe and environmentally responsible energy operations

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior today announced new measures to enhance worker safety and ensure offshore oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf are conducted with the utmost safety and oversight standards.

The final well control rule from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) builds upon the historic regulatory reforms implemented by the Department in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill that killed 11 people and caused billions of dollars in environmental damage and economic loss to coastal communities.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to the highest standards of worker safety and environmental protections,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “These improvements are necessary to ensure offshore operations, especially those related to well integrity and blowout prevention, are based on the best available, sound science. As our nation transitions to a clean energy economy, we will continue strengthening and modernizing offshore energy standards and oversight.”

“Finalizing this rule will enable BSEE to continue to put the lives and livelihoods of workers first, as well as the protection of our waters and marine habitats,” said BSEE Director Kevin Sligh. “This rule strengthens testing and performance requirements for blowout preventers and other well control equipment, provides for timely and robust analyses and investigations into failures, and clarifies reporting requirements to ensure we have appropriate visibility over information and data critical to maintaining well integrity.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon incident, BSEE adopted several recommendations from multiple investigation teams to improve the safety of offshore energy operations, leading to the publication of the 2016 Well Control Rule. In May 2019, BSEE published a final rule that weakened certain safety provisions. Today’s final rule incorporates key lessons learned from operator experience, incident data regarding blowout preventers, and well integrity since the publication of the 2016 rule and revises or rescinds certain modifications that were made in the 2019 rule.

The Department has finalized revisions that will:

  • Require blowout preventer systems (BOPs) to be able to always close and seal the wellbore to the well’s maximum anticipated surface pressure, except as otherwise specified in the BOP system requirement section of the regulations.
  • Require failure data to be reported to both a designated third party and BSEE.
  • Require failure analysis and investigations to start within 90 days of an incident.
  • Require independent third-party qualifications to be submitted to BSEE with the associated permit applications.
  • Specify that surface BOPs on existing floating facilities must follow the dual shear ram requirements when replacing an entire BOP stack.
  • Require that remotely operated vehicles be capable of opening and closing each shear ram on a BOP.
  • Require the operator to provide BOP test results to BSEE within 72 hours after completion of the tests if BSEE is unable to witness testing.

Secretary Haaland and Director Sligh announced the proposed rule on Sept. 12, 2022, starting a 60-day public comment period. BSEE evaluated all public comments received during the public comment period and developed the final rule based on that evaluation.



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