DOI Promulgates a New Final Rule for Increased Safety Measures on the OCS

By Sarah Y. Dicharry and Robert E. Holden

After Deepwater Horizon, the President directed the Secretary of the Interior to develop a report concerning safety on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”). In response, the Secretary of the Interior drafted a report entitled, “Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf,” which recommended a number of actions to increase safety. Following the report, the Secretary of the Interior directed BOEMRE to adopt and implement the report’s recommendations. Initially, BOEMRE implemented the recommendations through an interim final rule. In August 2012, BSEE promulgated a new final rule entitled “Oil and Gas and Sulphur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf--Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf,” to tighten safety measures on the OCS. 77 Fed. Reg. 50856 (Aug. 22, 2012).

One example of the significant changes made by the new rule is the alteration to the decommissioning requirements, located in 30 CFR 250, subpart Q. As with the other areas of change, the changes to the decommissioning regulations seek to implement additional safety measures and promote consistency through the regulations. Specifically, the new final rule adds a section to 30 CFR 250, subpart Q regarding submission of decommissioning applications and reports when a blowout preventer (“BOP”) is used for abandonment operations, 250.1704(g)(1)(ii). 77 Fed. Reg. 50856, 50882 (Aug. 22, 2012). The new section extends the information requirements under section 250.1705 to decommissioning when the abandonment operations involve a BOP and allows operators to use the same BOP equipment in abandonment operations that they use in operations under other subparts of the regulations. 77 Fed. Reg. 50856, 50882, 50897 (Aug. 22, 2012). To promote consistency, it also imposes on operators the same regulatory oversight in decommissioning required in other subparts. 77 Fed. Reg. 50856, 50882 (Aug. 22, 2012). As such, operators must now provide additional information in their decommissioning applications when using a BOP during abandonment operations, including a description of their BOP system components as well as a schematic of the BOP system. 77 Fed. Reg. 50856, 50883 (Aug. 22, 2012). Operators must also incorporate third-party verification that: “blind-sheer rams installed in the BOP stack are capable of shearing any drill pipe under maximum anticipated surface pressure”; “the BOP stack is designed for the specific equipment on the rig and for the specific well design; the BOP stack has not been compromised or damaged from previous service; and the BOP stack will operate in the conditions in which it will be used.” Id. To satisfy the requirements of section 250.1705, operators must include evidence of the third-party’s qualifications, specifically showing that he is “a registered professional engineer, or technical classification society, or a licensed professional engineering firm capable of providing” the required verifications.

The rule makes multiple significant changes, including adoption of methods to assure sufficient redundancy of BOPs, promotion of well integrity, enhancement of well control, and integration of safety considerations at the management level. 77 Fed. Reg. 50856, 50857 (Aug. 22, 2012). The specific informational change regarding decommissioning discussed in this blog is only a glimpse into the new final rule. The implementation of this new final rule concludes the rulemaking efforts begun by the interim final rule in response to the recommendations of the Secretary of the Interior to improve safety on the OCS following the Deepwater Horizon incident.

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