U.S. agency proposes rules to strengthen offshore oil and gas production safety

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in the United States has announced a new proposed rule to strengthen both human safety and environmental protection in offshore oil and gas development.

The proposed rule implements best practices and updates regulations regarding production safety systems and equipment used to collect and treat oil and gas from offshore production facilities.

“Our guiding focus throughout the development of this proposed rule has been and will continue to be worker safety and protecting the marine and coastal ecosystems by helping to reduce the number of production incidents resulting in oil spills, injuries and fatalities,” said James Watson, director of BSSE. “The changes will help regulations keep pace with changing technologies that have enabled the industry to explore and develop resources in deeper waters."

The changes are "common sense" and will address issues such as production safety systems, subsurface safety devices and safety device testing.

The rule also implements best practices currently being deployed by industry leaders as "we continue to strive for safety at all levels, at all times," said Watson.

The proposed rule will revise 30 CFR 250 subpart H, Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems, to address recent technological advances. This section of the regulations has not had a major revision since it was first published in 1988. During that period, industry’s use of subsea trees (the assembly mounted on a well head used to control the flow of oil and gas) and other technologies have evolved or become more prevalent offshore.

These devices and materials include foam firefighting systems; electronic-based emergency shutdown systems; subsea pumping, waterflooding, and gaslift; and new alloys and equipment for high temperature and high pressure wells.

The proposed rule ensures that the regulations governing their use and maintenance are keeping pace with industry’s advancements and that they address these newer and emerging safety technologies, said BSSE.