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BSEE: New era of collaboration, energy dominance ahead for U.S. offshore oil industry

Oct 24, 2017

LAFAYETTE, La. -- The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is on a mission to unlock a new wave of heavy investment for oil and gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, via renewed collaboration with offshore oil companies and refocused regulation.

The bureau is actively revisiting rules that were introduced during the Obama administration, and is in the midst of meeting with Gulf Coast companies to understand how BSEE can ensure safety and environmentally-sustainable offshore E&P operations, without unnecessarily burdensome regulation. Through these activities, BSEE’s goal is to secure long-term investment in U.S. GOM oil production, regardless of commodity prices, according to BSEE Director Scott Angelle, who made the remarks while delivering a keynote presentation at the 2017 Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition (LAGCOE) on Oct. 24 in Lafayette, La. Angelle also said that he hopes to assist the U.S. in “fueling the world” through “energy dominance,” rather than simply focusing on domestic energy independence.

Regulations that BSEE is revisiting for possible changes include the Well Control Rule and the Production Safety Systems Rule, as well as regulation on decommissioning, Angelle said. “However, we are not reducing safety or environmental safeguards,” he said, insisting that any changes in regulation would be driven only by unnecessary burden on business, and would not sacrifice safety. “Doing (offshore development) in a safe way and in an environmentally-stable way—that is consistent with what we are looking for in this country.” Recent regulations, such as the Well Control Rule—implemented in 2016— were designed to bolster offshore health, safety and environmental (HSE) standards, in response to the blowout of the Macondo well in April 2010.

Angelle said that he also is engaging with companies that could invest in offshore U.S. oil and gas production, but aren’t, to find out why they are not investing, and to understand how BSEE can help these companies begin to invest in development on the U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS). “We are moving from an era of isolation to an era of cooperation—an era of great hardship to an era of great partnership,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we see the world the same way all the time, but it also doesn’t mean that we see the world differently all the time.” As such, he stated that BSEE’s partners in developing a robust, sustainable Gulf Coast economy for the future not only include the regulated oil and gas industry, but also state and local governments, NGOs and the academic world, among other entities.

One project that Angelle said he would like to advance, but which he inherited from the previous administration, is SafeOCS, BSEE’s near-miss reporting system, which allows companies to anonymously report near-misses, without punishment or regulatory repercussion. The program’s goal was to help the industry learn about its near-misses, and how to avoid them, without fear of governmental retribution. However, Angelle said that so far, only three companies are participating in the program, which amounts to 3.5% of companies operating in the U.S. OCS. “This was a great idea—we can learn from these near-misses—but we need to be more about execution.” SafeOCS was modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration’s Near Midair Collision reporting system.

Alex Endress | World Oil