Government weighs new standards for blowout preventers


The federal government is considering whether it should boost requirements for emergency drilling equipment after an investigation revealed a possible design flaw in the device that failed to stop last year’s oil spill.

Government regulators have already imposed new mandates for third-party certification and safety evaluations of the equipment known as blowout preventers, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar noted today. But higher standards also could be on the way, he said.

We “will also be looking to develop some additional improvements with respect to BOPs,” Salazar told reporters on a conference call. “We are looking at what else might be needed.”

Salazar added that the changes could include mandates for more instrumentation and a second set of blind shear rams capable of cutting through drill pipes and sealing well holes.

A four-month analysis of the 60-foot-tall, 300-ton blowout preventer used at BP’s failed Macondo well concluded that neither human nor mechanical error was to blame for its failure to stop gushing oil and gas at the site last year. Instead, a government-contracted forensic analysis firm said the force of the oil and gas surging out of the well caused drill pipe in the blowout preventer to buckle and be pushed askew, preventing the device’s sharp rams from slashing through the pipe, sealing the well hole and trapping oil underground.

In the wake of that report, Obama administration officials stressed that they were already considering improvements to BOPs as part of a formal rulemaking process.

David Hayes, the deputy secretary of Interior, said that the government will consult with engineers, drilling experts and academics on its new Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee on any new BOP standards before proposing new rules later this year. That panel will hold its first public meeting on April 18.

“We will be working with the new Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee to get their input on proposed new rules,” Hayes said. “We are looking in all likelihood to move out with an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months that will request information from all sources as to what sorts of upgrades are appropriate for blowout preventers and also other equipment.”

Jennifer Dlouhy

3 Responses

  1. Ross says:

    Why is it that everyday there is AT LEAST one story bashing the oil and gas industry in the hometown paper of the Energy Capital of the World?

    The Houston Chronicle’s agenda is so transparent. Anti-Oil and Gas, Anti-Death Penalty. No wonder it’s on life support.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      Would you suggest we not write about the federal government saying it is considering new standards that could very well impact that cost of doing business for oil and gas businesses? Whether we write about it or not the regulations are still being proposed and it will still cost money. We figure some readers might like to have a clue that these things are coming down the pike.

      Also, please tell me what about this story is anti-oil? It’s possible some of the officials in the story might be considered anti-oil, and I’m sure if there are changes they will likely mean higher costs for the oil companies, which I guess could be considered “anti-oil”. But how does that make us, the Chronicle, anti-oil? If we were anti-oil would we be covering incremental movements in the regulatory regime?

      I think you’re confusing the message with the messenger.

  2. Diogenes says:

    The government. The have not produced anything, ever. But they will tell all the rest of us how to live, work, eat, etc. Brilliant.