Proposed Regulations for Blowout Preventers and Well Control Would Bring US Up to North Sea Standards
Proposed regulations from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on blowout preventer (BOP) systems and well control should lead to a “convergence” between North Sea and US standards, according to well-integrity consultant Matteo Loizzo.
On 13 April 2015, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the recommendations, which come after lengthy investigations into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident. The measures include more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for critical well control equipment used in offshore oil and gas operations, in particular the BOP, a safety-critical piece of equipment that failed on the BP-operated Macondo well in the Deepwater incident.
In the new regulations, “most major changes concern BOPs,” and “there is a certain number of regulations which will probably have a measurable impact”, Loizzo said.
One proposed change requires BOPs to use two blind rams instead of one, thus changing the “mechanical design” of the BOP, Loizzo said.
The BOP must be “more robust”, but the operator will also need to have more ways of controlling an incident, Loizzo said.
Loizzo estimates this will have a 10–20% increase in the cost of BOP equipment. “Any increase in functionality will bring cost increases … . But, if you have a full HPHT (high-pressure/high-temperature) BOP, the cost increase will be much higher, I would think.”
The equipment-related costs would represent a small increase on overall expenses, when rigs cost more than USD 500,000 per day to operate. Process changes such as longer decision times could also increase costs, Loizzo said.