The U.S. Department of the Interior announced today that it is publishing a final drilling safety rule for oil and gas drilling on the Arctic outer continental shelf. The new regulations, which apply to exploration drilling from drill ships, semi-submersible drilling rigs and jack-up rigs, cover the federal waters of the U.S. Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
The regulations include a requirement for the development of an integrated operations plan in advance of the filing of an exploration plan for a proposed exploration drilling project. Under the regulations, an operator must be able to promptly deploy source control and containment equipment such as well capping stacks or containment domes when drilling below the surface casing. The operator must also have access to a backup drilling rig for the timely drilling of a relief well, in the event of a loss of well control. And the regulations mandate the implementation of an oil spill response plan designed for the Arctic outer continental shelf operating environment.
"Conducting safe and environmentally responsible Arctic exploratory drilling operations presents a variety of technical, logistical and operational challenges," said Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Brian Salerno. "This rulemaking seeks to ensure that operators prepare for and conduct these operations in a manner that drives down risks and protects both offshore personnel and the pristine Arctic environment."
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in July 17 issue, available online Friday, July 15 www.PetroleumNews.com