US government announces proposals for offshore drilling safety near the fifth anniversary of Deepwater Horizon tragedy

US government announces proposals for offshore drilling safety near the fifth anniversary of Deepwater Horizon tragedy

San Francisco: A week before the fifth anniversary of the BP Gulf spill the US government proposed new regulations on Monday aimed at lessening the chance of another such calamity.

As predicted before the weekend, the Department of the Interior put forward some new technical requirements for blowout preventers, the large specialised valves which act as backup systems to prevent explosions on rigs.

The failure of one such preventer was determined to be a factor in the 2010 BP incident, also known as the Deepwater Horizon disaster after the Gulf of Mexico rig on which it happened.

Eleven men died and the gulf waters were fouled by an oil spill that lasted nearly three months.

Monday’s proposals would require that blowout preventers in wells have two shear rams, a device which cuts through the drill pipe in the fashion of a cigar cutter and allows the well to be sealed. In the Deepwater Horizon spill, there was a single shear ram and it failed to operate properly.

Since then the industry practice has made the second shear ram a commonplace redundancy so the proposed rule would formalize that.

The new rules would require annual review by government-approved inspectors of maintenance and repair records on rigs. They would also give government inspectors access to drillers’ remote monitoring technology.

The Interior Department is expected to issue final rules later this year. Firms will be allowed three to seven years for companies to comply with the rules, depending on the particular provision.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.

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