Two energy industry officials spoke yesterday at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and offered perspectives on how other countries regulate offshore energy industries. J. Robinson West, founder and CEO of PFC Energy, provided an overview of the three main offshore regulatory models: (1) the "safety case" model, pioneered by the United Kingdom and Norway, which involves a collaborative relationship between government regulators and industry; (2) the prescriptive regulatory model, followed by the United States and China, in which the regulator is responsible for determining safety and regulatory risks; (3) and the self-regulatory model, followed by many developing countries. West noted that the “safety case” model places the burden of safety and environmental risk on the offshore drilling rig operator, forcing operators to be more proactive in anticipating potential hazards. He suggested that the United States ought to move toward a safety case regime for its offshore industry regulation, noting that many of the largest operators in the U.S. offshore energy industry already operate under "safety case" regulatory structures around the world and should not have much trouble adjusting to a similar model if adopted in the United States.
Magne Ognedal, director-general of Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority, also offered his views on various regulatory approaches, and provided a number of anecdotes from his long experience with Norway's offshore regulators. He described Norway's approach to offshore regulations as a "risk-based" approach that placed a great deal of the burden for safety on the offshore industry. He also suggested that Norway's initial experience with prescriptive regulations, like the United States, was not successful as it hindered new technology, kept the regulators behind the industry on the technology curve, and that constantly updating prescriptive regulations proved too burdensome to his agency.