Offshore drilling safety panels wrap up work

03 28, 2012 by Fuel Fix

Nearly two years after oil started spilling from BP’s failed Macondo well into the Gulf of Mexico, industry experts are wrapping up projects evaluating ways to boost the safety of offshore drilling.

Joint industry task forces that were convened after the Gulf oil spill have already delivered dozens of recommendations to oil companies and federal officials. In separate reports today, the groups summarize what they accomplished — and what still needs to be done.

With representatives from several industry trade groups, the task forces were charged with identifying ways to improve offshore operating procedures and equipment, control runaway subsea wells and clean up oil spills.

Several of their recommendations — some advanced while oil was still gushing into the Gulf — formed the foundation for new federal regulations governing offshore drilling. For instance, the government incorporated the task force’s guidelines for isolating potential pathways for oil and gas in new wells into a drilling safety rule last year. Other suggestions have been incorporated in new API standards and recommended practices.

Holly Hopkins, an upstream senior policy adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, said the recommendations “are part of a comprehensive effort by the industry to strengthen all aspects of offshore safety.”

Although three of four task forces have completed their work, a panel focusing on oil spill response is still studying the issue — including how to best share equipment for tackling spills and better train people to deal with them. The group also is evaluating a wide range of issues tied to chemical dispersants used to break up oil.