Friday, April 15, 2016

Stricter offshore drilling rules issued, upsetting industry

The Obama administration issued new rules Thursday to make offshore oil and natural gas drilling equipment safer and to reduce risks in digging wells, but the oil industry and its supporters in Congress say they are costly and questioned their need. The rules published by the Interior Department came nearly six years after the catastrophic blowout of a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and injured many others aboard Transocean's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The out-of-control leak dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Meanwhile, another federal agency — the U.S. Chemical Safety Board — issued recommendations Wednesday saying even more rigorous safety standards are needed to make offshore drilling safe. That agency said offshore workers should be involved more in safety decisions and regulators given more authority to enforce rules. The Interior Department rules target blowout preventers, massive valve-like devices meant to prevent oil and gas from escaping when a driller loses control of a well. The device failed in the BP spill. Officials said the rules will improve the inspection, maintenance, and repair of blowout preventers, which are known as BOPs. For example, the devices will need to be broken down and inspected every five years. Also, companies will have to use BOPs that are better equipped to shear drill pipe in the case of an emergency. This was one of the problems in BP's disaster. In addition, drilling of highly complex wells must be monitored in real-time by experts onshore. The rules also set out standards called "safe drilling margins" for the design, casing, cementing and other work that goes into drilling a well. Environmental groups applauded the rules...more

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