New offshore tech center coming to Houston

HOUSTON — The government agency that oversees offshore drilling plans to establish a new technology center in Houston.

Major details about the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s planned center — including just how many people might work there — are still undecided.

But the facility is meant to help the agency and its regulators keep pace with the technology being developed and used by the offshore oil industry, as drilling moves into deeper waters and targets high-pressure reservoirs miles underground.

The technology center “will be an internal resource for BSEE engineers and also a place for discussing new and emerging technology, reaching out to original equipment manufacturers, understanding what they are developing and incorporating that into our thinking,” said agency director Brian Salerno.

More knowledge needed: Offshore regulator needs outside expertise on technology

It also will allow the agency to work more closely with groups setting standards governing offshore drilling equipment and processes, Salerno said.

Salerno announced the plans at the Offshore Technology Conference, a four-day summit drawing some 90,000 participants this week to Houston’s NRG Park.

The initiative will build on other bureau projects designed to boost regulators’ knowledge of emerging offshore technology, including the Ocean Energy Safety Institute that is located at Texas A&M University.

The Houston locale ensures “close proximity to the industry” and that safety institute, Salerno said.

Salerno said he envisions the group being an internal resource for BSEE that serves its operations in Alaska, the Pacific and the Gulf Coast. Each area has its own technological challenges, from the remote, Arctic obstacles off the coast of Alaska to questions around maintaining aging infrastructure in the Pacific.