New database for US offshore drilling industry needed: BSEE chief

Washington (Platts)--13Aug2014/230 pm EDT/1830 GMT


A US Interior Department official wants the offshore drilling industry to develop a comprehensive public database to help improve safety and prevent spills in federal waters.

"Currently individual operators are collecting a lot of the data we need to properly assess risk, but that information isn't being shared," Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in remarks prepared for an industry forum in Houston this week. "Everyone is working in their own silo, collecting and using information for their own operations."

But Salerno said offshore oil and gas operators, as well as regulators, lack "big picture data" and incidents, such as certain equipment failures, are not being shared with all operators. This lack of information-sharing is particularly needed as offshore drilling expands into new areas in the Arctic or potentially off the US East Coast.

"Wouldn't it be incredibly valuable to have more information for these operations in new frontier areas that carry great economic potential, but also carry great risk?" Salerno said in his remarks to the Ocean Energy Safety Institute forum.

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Salerno acknowledged that there are obstacles to creating this database, such as sharing proprietary information and a lack of standard formatting, but stressed that he does not want regulators to mandate such a database.

"We don't want a regulatory solution and prefer that industry tackle this," he said.

BSEE plans to finalize several new offshore safety programs and standards this year, including a "near-miss" data collection program designed to give regulators access to information on accidents offshore operators previously would not have reported.

Under the system, which is modeled on a similar system to track near-miss incidents in the airline industry, offshore operators will voluntarily and anonymously report incidents that it otherwise would not be required to report.

In a recent interview, Salerno said a culture of safety has not been executed equally at all offshore oil and gas companies in the four years since BP's Macondo disaster and some Gulf of Mexico operators continue to do only the bare minimum to prevent a future drilling disaster.

--Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@platts.com
--Edited by Jaime Concha, jaime.concha@platts.com

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