In the wake of the Macondo blowout, on May 27, 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a report to President Obama, providing numerous recommendations intended to improve the safety of offshore oil and gas drilling operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) (the “Safety Measures Report”). On June 8, 2010, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) (formerly the Minerals Management Service) issued a notice to lessees, NTL No. 2010-05, “Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the OCS,” which implemented the immediate recommendations from the Safety Measures Report.
BOEMRE released a fact sheet announcing an interim final Drilling Safety Rule on September 30, 2010. However, the text of the rule was not made available until October 7. The interim final rule is not a mere codification of the recommendations made in the Safety Measures Report. The Safety Measures Report recommended that four issues be addressed through emergency rulemaking, such as an interim final rule:
1.Develop secondary control system requirements;
2.Establish new deepwater well control procedure requirements;
3.Establish new blind-shear ram redundancy requirements;
4.Adopt safety case requirements for floating drilling operations on the OCS.
The interim final rule addresses issues 1 and 2, above, but does not address issues 3 and 4. BOEMRE determined that it would not be appropriate to require the immediate compliance with a blind-shear ram redundancy requirement through an interim rule because operators would need one year to 18 months to make such modifications. Safety case requirements were also not included in the interim rule because BOEMRE needs more time to evaluate how to properly integrate a drilling safety case with an overall Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) approach.
Moreover, the interim final rule does not codify several one-time requirements included in NTL No. 2010-05:
1.Verification of compliance with existing BOEMRE regulations and with BOEMRE/U.S. Coast Guard National Safety Alert;
2.Submission of blowout preventer (BOP) and well control system configuration information for any drilling rig in use on May 27, 2010;
3.Submission of information required by NTL No. 2010-05 prior to commencing operations if an Application for Permit to Drill or an Application for Permit to Modify was approved but drilling did not commence prior to May 27, 2010.
BOEMRE will be taking additional time to review and analyze certain issues before conducting additional rulemaking. The issues BOEMRE is considering for future rulemaking include developing
1.Formal equipment certification requirements;
2.Blind shear ram redundancy requirements;
3.Additional requirements or guidelines for evaluation of cement integrity;
5.Innovative wild-well intervention, response techniques, and response planning;
6.Safety case requirements for floating drilling operations on the OCS;
7.Additional safety training and certification requirements.
Moreover, BOEMRE indicated that the following items included in the interim final rule will likely be expanded through additional rulemaking in the future:
1.Secondary control system requirements and guidelines;
2.Remotely operating vehicle (ROV) operating capabilities;
3.Deepwater well-control procedure guidelines;
4.Formal personnel training requirements for casing and cementing operations;
5.Casing installation guidelines or requirements;
6.Enforcement of primary cementing practices.
The interim final rule will become effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register, but the publication will also start a 60-day public comment period. Thereafter, BOEMRE will determine whether modifications to the interim rule are necessary or if the rule should be confirmed as final without any changes.