Interior to Require Deepwater Operators To Sign Statement on Safety Compliance

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Deepwater drilling operators will be required to submit a signed statement that asserts they have complied with all regulations, including recently imposed drilling safety rules, according to a Notice to Lessees issued Nov. 8 and effective immediately.

“Today's announcement is an important step in our continued efforts to ensure oil and gas producers operate responsibly,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. “This will serve to confirm that oil and gas companies are accountable and responsible for their operations as we work to strengthen safety, oversight, and environmental protection at every stage of the drilling process.”

The corporate compliance statements, which will be required by operators whose operations include the use of subsea blowout preventers or surface blowout preventers on floating facilities, must be submitted with each application for a well permit, according to Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement, and Regulation.

Operators will be required to state they will comply with the Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf, offshore drilling safety requirements that were put into effect as part of an emergency rulemaking process published as an interim final rule in the Federal Register Oct. 14 (75 Fed. Reg. 63,346; 41 ER 2205, 10/1/10).

The regulation prescribes proper cementing and casing practices and the appropriate use of drilling fluids to maintain wellbore integrity, which is critical to preventing a blowout. The regulation also strengthens oversight of devices designed to shut off the flow of oil and gas, primarily the blowout preventer and its components, including remotely operated vehicles, shear rams, and pipe rams.

Need to Show Ability to Respond to Spill.

The Notice to Lessees also confirmed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement, and Regulation will be evaluating whether each operator has submitted adequate information to “demonstrate that it has access to, and can deploy, subsea blowout containment resources that would be significant enough to promptly respond to a deepwater blowout out or other loss of well control.”

“It is extremely important for operators to provide assurances that they comply with all rules and regulations that apply to offshore drilling, and that they would have access to equipment needed to handle a deepwater blowout,” Bureau Director Michael R. Bromwich said in a statement. “These are obvious but important elements of our overall review and evaluation of deepwater drilling permit applications.”

The department said the notice “advances the increased oversight” directed by Salazar following his Oct. 12 decision to lift a moratorium on deepwater drilling (41 ER 2322, 10/15/10).

“I look forward to continued discussions with industry representatives--from the large, multinational companies to the smaller, independent operators--as we work together to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf,” Bromwhich said.

By Ari Natter

The Interior Department's Notice to Lessees on corporate compliance statements is available at