US Interior, Energy departments to cooperate on offshore safety programs

Washington (Platts)--23Aug2013/317 pm EDT/1917 GMT


The US departments of Energy and Interior have agreed to work cooperatively on the research and development of safer and technologically advanced offshore oil and natural gas development, the departments said Friday.

Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will coordinate its ongoing research and development efforts with the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy to avoid duplication and to formalize the already ongoing cooperation between the two, the agencies said.

"We will continue to prevent duplication and increase the effectiveness of our ability to create a regulatory environment that fosters the safe and responsible development of the nation's energy resources," BSEE Director James Watson said in a statement.

Article continues below...


Request a free trial of: Oilgram News Oilgram News
Oilgram News

Oilgram News brings you fast-breaking global petroleum and gas news on and including:

  • Industry players, upstream and downstream markets, refineries, midstream transportation and financial reports
  • Supply and demand trends, government actions, exploration and technology
  • Daily futures summary
  • Weekly API statistics, and much more
Request a trial to Oilgram News Request More Information


Interior and Energy will work primarily in support of three primary objectives: building safety through technological improvements; supporting research and development for offshore operations; and working together to implement various recommendations arising from investigations into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The two agencies already cooperate in a number of areas.

In 2011, Interior formed the Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to increase safe oil and gas exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf. The group was chaired by Thomas Hunter, the former director of the DOE's Sandia National Laboratory.

Also serving on the committee was Christopher Smith, the DOE's assistant secretary for fossil energy. Smith will now take the lead at the DOE in overseeing the new cooperation with Interior's BSEE.

The two agencies also worked closely in the months immediately after the blowout of BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. Then-DOE Secretary Steven Chu and several DOE scientists played key roles in developing techniques to stem the flow of oil and ultimately cap the well.

One key area that the two agencies will work closely on is conducting research and analysis necessary for the implementation of BSEE's Best Available and Safest Technology (BAST) regulation, which the agency announced earlier this week.

Under the proposed rule, BSEE will determine which technologies would meet the BAST requirement and should be used in situations where failure of equipment would have a significant impact on safety, health or the environment.

BSEE is also working with several of DOE's national laboratories to develop downhole early kick warning systems for offshore drilling.

BSEE is working with the Argonne National Laboratory to use existing technology and methods to monitor changes in drilling mud which could detect kicks before they become blowouts.

BSEE has also entered discussions with the Los Alamos National Laboratory to discuss the possibility of using more advanced technology to develop an early warning system that could then become part of an automated well control system, designed to shut down a well in the early stages of a blowout.

--Gary Gentile, gary.gentile@platts.com
--Edited by Richard Rubin, richard.rubin@platts.com

Platts Email