Trump's administration proposed to eliminate offshore drilling safety regulations imposed in wake of 2010 BP oil spill
The administration says the changes would save industry $946mn over 10 years by removing "unnecessary regulatory burdens." The proposal would remove some requirements related to real-time monitoring and give operators more flexibility on safety equipment. But it would leave intact most of the offshore safety regulations that are collectively named the "well control rule."
US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) director Scott Angelle said the proposal would reduce industry costs but not diminish safety or environmental protection, although the agency has not provided a supporting analysis backing up that claim. Angelle said the agency relied on experts to ensure the rule would protect safety.
"We believe that focusing on safety, without removing standards, we have produced the kind of public policy that is good for America, good for economic security," he said.
The well control rule, which was finalized in 2016 under former president Barack Obama, set minimum standards for drilling, well design and maintenance in hopes of avoiding another major oil spill. They were set after a well blowout triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers and allowing an estimated 3.18mn bl of oil to flow into the US Gulf of Mexico.
Trump one year ago ordered BSEE to reconsider the safety standards, as part of his push to boost offshore oil and gas production. That was welcome news to offshore producers that complained the existing rules were too prescriptive and increased their operating costs, at a time when they have struggled to compete against shale resources.
BSEE says its proposed rule would reduce how much data operators need to submit to BSEE, remove a requirement to halt production when supply boats are nearby offshore platforms, and give operators more flexibility on equipment used in blowout preventers. The agency issued a fact sheet on the rule but has not released further details.
But the agency rejected an industry push to revise "safe drilling margins" that set minimum amounts of pressure operators need to maintain in wells. It also maintained testing and certification requirements for blowout preventers, which sit on the seafloor and serve as the last line of defense against an offshore well blowout.