US proposes new offshore well equipment rules

The US Department of Interior has proposed new rules for the design and operation of well control equipment offshore.

The department has stated that these proposed new rules would incorporate the latest industry standards that establish minimum baseline requirements for the design, manufacture, repair and maintenance of blowout preventors (BOPs); require more controls over the maintenance and repair of BOPs; require that shear rams be designed to include a technology that allows the drill pipe to be centered during shearing operations; require more rigorous third-party certification of the shearing capability of BOPs; request comments on a potential long-term requirement that a technology be installed to allow all equipment in the hole to be severed; expand accumulator capacity for increased functionality; require real-time monitoring capability for deepwater and high-pressure/high-temperature drilling activities; establish criteria for the testing of subsea well containment equipment in the regulations; increase the reporting of failure data of BOP to OEMs by operators and drilling contractors; adopt criteria for safe drilling margins consistent with Department of Justice and Office of the Inspector General recommendations arising out of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy; require the use of accepted engineering principles and establishes general performance criteria for drilling and completion equipment; establish additional requirements for using ROVs to assist in closing the BOP stack; establish additional guidelines for cementing and the use of centralizers; make the testing frequency of BOPs used on workover operations the same as drilling operations; and, request comments on changing the test frequency for both workover and drilling BOPs from 14 days to 21 days.

“In addition to more stringent design requirements, the proposed rule requires improved controls of all repair and maintenance activities through the lifecycle of the blowout preventer and other well control equipment,” said US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Brian Salerno. “It would provide verification of the performance of equipment designs through third-party verification, enhanced oversight of operations through real-time monitoring viewed onshore, and require operators to, during operations, utilize recognized engineering best standards that reduce risk.”

The public may submit comments on the proposed regulations during the 60-day comment period that begins April 15, 2015, when the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

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