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DOI issues final offshore well control rule, spotlighting blowout prevention

TheU.S. Department of the Interior has released its final rule on offshore wellcontrol, nearly six years after the Deepwater Horizon incident killed 11 peopleand caused the largest oil spill in the history of the Gulf of Mexico.

The rule,released April 14, addresses "the full range of systems and equipmentrelated to well control operations," the department said in a statement.The DOI and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, had aparticular focus on blowout-preventer requirements, well design, well controlcasing, cementing, real-time monitoring and subsea containment.

"Themeasures are designed to improve equipment reliability, especially for blowoutpreventers and blowout prevention technologies," the DOI said. "Therule requires operability of equipment through rigorous testing and providesfor the continuous oversight of operations, all with the goal of improving thereliability of equipment and systems to protect workers' lives and theenvironment from the potentially devastating effects of blowouts and offshoreoil spills."

TheDOI said the final rule incorporates the latest industry standards to establishminimum baseline requirements for the design, manufacture, repair andmaintenance of blowout preventers, absent in previous regulations.

"Adoptionof these documents ensures that BSEE's regulations match the performancerequirements recommended by the industry in the time since the DeepwaterHorizon tragedy," the DOI said. The rule also increases the number ofcontrols over the maintenance and repair of blowout preventers, including acomplete breakdown and inspection of every blowout preventer at least onceevery five years.

Thefinal rule also adopts the voluntary industry reporting standards for reportingequipment issues with blowout preventers, citing the need to have such data toaddress key safety issues. The regulation additionally requires producers toshow a safe drilling margin in their application for permit to drill, somethingthat existed in previous rules but, the DOI said, had not been clearly defined.

"Wecollected best practices on preventing well control incidents and blowouts toinform the development of this rule. As a result, this is one of the mostcomprehensive offshore safety and environmental protection rules ever developedby the Department of the Interior," BSEE Director Brian Salerno said.