UK rejects calls for tougher rules on well design, spill cost liability
London (Platts)--18Dec2012/819 am EST/1319 GMT
The UK government rejected Tuesday recommendations for tougher safety
measures for well design and greater liability for offshore drilling in the
wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In its response to a 2011 independent review of rules governing the
country's offshore oil industry, the UK's Department of Energy and Climate
Change said it had taken an "alternative approach" to some of the key safety
The independent review, published in late 2011, listed 26
recommendations to strengthen offshore safety and environmental management
systems as US regulators pored over the events behind BP's massive blowout
The review panel, led by Geoffrey Maitland, professor of energy
engineering at London's Imperial College, also called for greater integration
between the regulatory authorities and a clearer command and control
structure in the event of a spill.
Article continues below...
On well design and control, the review panel had recommended that
regulators should consider requiring at least two well barriers to be in
place, in addition to the seabed blowout preventer, when moving a well to an
"under-balanced" pressure situation.
Publishing its response to the review, the government concluded,
however, that it would not be possible to test the barriers independently and
any additional mechanical well barriers would still require a competent
person to manage the well pressure.
"Following further deliberation the forum has concluded that there is no
significant added value from a change in well control guidance and installing
a second barrier above the first barrier is not recommended," DECC said.
The government, which coordinated its response to the recommendations
with the UK's offshore operators, also rejected calls for independent
verification of insurance and the ability to pay for the cost of cleaning up
an offshore spill.
The review panel had called for third party verification of costs and
ability to pay prior to consent being given to drill a well.
"Third-party verification would not add any substantive value to the
documentation provided in the operator's certificate to DECC and no third
party company would be able to declare that financial responsibility is
'sufficient' for any eventuality," the DECC said.
The government said, however, it had published guidance on how UK
offshore operators can demonstrate that they have the financial capability to
respond to a blowout of spill before drilling an exploration well.
On liability, the government also rejected a call for third party costs
for high-risk deepwater spills to be revised upwards to 90 days, representing
the typical time required to drill a relief well and plug a leaking well.
Noting the current absence of a legislative cap on a company's
responsibility for clean-up and compensation for offshore spills, the
government concluded it would be "disproportionate" to base estimates of
third party costs on the time required to drill a relief well.
The UK government announced in early 2011 plans to double its offshore
checks on drilling rigs as US attention focused on possible faults in the
critical blowout preventer that should have stopped BP's Macondo accident.
Britain has repeatedly rejected calls for a deepwater drilling ban,
however, and defended its existing offshore drilling procedures as some of
the world's toughest.
In its response to the independent review, DECC said an industry forum
set up in the wake of the Macondo spill to share best practice and develop
guidance and standards for well management and design will remain in place
The government also said it has increased the requirement for operators
to carry out offshore oil and gas emergency response exercises to every three
years from every five years.
--Robert Perkins, email@example.com
--Edited by Jeremy Lovell, firstname.lastname@example.org