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Australia Amends Petroleum and Gas Safety and Health Fee

Source: HopgoodGanim via Mondaq | 16 October 2013

Recent amendments to Australia’s Petroleum and Gas Production and Safety Regulation (2004) have made important changes to the Petroleum and Gas Safety and Health Fee. This fee covers the costs of the activities carried out by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines for the purposes of safety and health relating to operating plant.

Under the new amendments:

  • Reporting requirements of “liable persons” are reduced from quarterly to annually.
  • Fee capping provisions are introduced, to ensure users are not paying more than necessary to fund petroleum and gas safety and health regulatory activities.
  • Operators of facilities producing or processing biogas or gas derived from waste disposal or sewerage treatment are exempt from paying the fee where Innovation Australia has made a positive advance finding that these are core research and development (R&D) or supporting R&D activities.

People liable to pay the fee include holders of exploration and production tenements (but only those that are actually producing petroleum) and operators of certain operating plant and petroleum facilities.


BSEE To Mandate New BOP Rules

Source: OE | 10 October 2013

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will be issuing new requirements for the blowout preventers (BOP) by the end of the year, according to agency director Brian M. Salerno.

It is expected that BSEE will be extremely specific in it rules by laying out performance and operational standards for the BOPs, even employing technology that could diagnose potential threats or unexplained rises in oil and gas. Salerno said that BSEE is consulting with BOP manufacturers and their customers while drafting requirements, with a public forum held in May 2012 that initiated their consultation.

South Africa Proposes Rules for Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: Rigzone | 10 October 2013

South Africa’s cabinet on 10 October proposed new regulations to govern exploration for shale gas, an important step in opening up an industry that could provide new energy supplies for Africa’s largest economy.

South Africa last year lifted a moratorium on shale gas exploration in its Karoo region, where hydraulic fracturing might tap what is believed to be some of the world’s biggest reserves of the energy source.

The sparsely populated Karoo is renowned for its rugged scenery and is home to species such as the mountain zebra and riverine rabbit, one of the rarest mammals in the world.

The government signaled it was keen to start exploiting the resource.

“Not only does the potential of shale gas exploration and exploitation provide an opportunity for us to begin production of our own fuel, but it also marks the beginning of the reindustrialization of the South African economy,” Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said in a statement.

“By embarking on this process presented by hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas, we bring the country a step closer to the achievement of our objectives,” she said.

Indian Oil and Gas Sector Considers Creating Safety Regulator Position

Source: Business Standard | 9 October 2013

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas plans to set up a regulator to look into health, safety, and environment practices in the oil and gas sector, Minister M. Veerappa Moily said.

“I have moved a proposal to have a regulator for HSE, and the ministry is looking into it,” Moily said on the sidelines of a two-day Global HSE Conference organized by Cairn India.

Currently, the Directorate General of Mines Safety is the regulatory body looking into safety in mines and oil fields. Moily said the proposed body would focus on the oil and gas sector.

OSHA Proposes New Silica Exposure Rule

Source: Sensear | 27 September 2013

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States recently released a proposed rule, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica.

OSHA proposes reducing the permissible exposure limits for respirable crystalline silica to 50 μg/mor below. Among the suggested solutions are wearing respiratory equipment to protect the worker from exposure. OSHA has taken into consideration the difficulty this requirement brings to effective communications within certain industries. An excerpt from the proposed rule states: “Safety problems created by respirators that limit vision and communication must also be considered. In some difficult or dangerous jobs, effective vision or communication is vital. Voice transmission through a respirator can be difficult and fatiguing.”


California Legislature Sends Hydraulic Fracturing Bill To Governor’s Desk

Source: Bingham McCutchen via Mondaq | 17 September 2013

On 11 September 2013, California moved significantly closer to adopting a statewide regulatory framework for hydraulic fracturing operations after both the State Assembly and the Senate voted to approve Senate Bill 4. The bill requires energy companies to obtain state hydraulic fracturing permits, provide notice of planned hydraulic fracturing to nearby property owners, disclose chemicals used during operations (with certain trade secret exceptions), and monitor air and groundwater near hydraulic fracturing wells. The legislation now proceeds to the governor, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Public Comment Period for Proposed Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations Draws to a Close

Source: BakerHostetler via Mondaq | 3 September 2013

The public comment period for new federal regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing on public lands—the first substantive update to the rules in three decades—ended on 30 August with more than 1 million submissions from both critics and advocates evaluating the proposed rules. The proposed rules have garnered substantial attention, with demonstrators sporting both pro- and anti-fracturing messages turning out in force to protest President Obama’s recent appearance in New York. President Obama continued to express support for increased domestic production of natural gas, touting it as a replacement to dirtier fuels such as coal, although natural gas production on federal lands has fallen from 5,376 Bcf in 2009 to 3,724 Bcf in 2012.

Recent Accidents Highlight Shallow Water Dangers, Departing Regulator Says

Source: Fuel Fix | 3 September 2013

Recent accidents at offshore oil and gas facilities highlight the risks of producing energy on the shallow continental shelf as well as the Gulf of Mexico’s deepest frontiers, said a departing top US regulator.

The incidents include the evacuation of 44 workers after a natural gas well exploded in July and a production platform fire last November that killed three workers from the Philippines. Both episodes happened at older, established facilities in shallow waters—unlike the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that was sparked by the blowout of an exploratory well located under a mile of water.

The accidents are a fresh reminder that offshore regulators and the oil industry need to remain vigilant both close to shore and in deep water, said James Watson as he ends his 1-year stint directing the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Wyoming Requests Exemption From Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

Source: BakerHostetler via Mondaq | 29 August 2013

On 19 August, Wyoming Sens. Michael B. Enzi and John Barraso as well as US Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis, wrote to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell requesting that the Department of the Interior exempt Wyoming, as well as other states currently regulating hydraulic fracturing, from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule concerning Oil and Gas: Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands.

As background, BLM had previously published a proposed rule applying to hydraulic fracturing in the Federal Register dated 24 May 2013. The proposed rule purports:

“[T]o modernize BLM’s management of hydraulic fracturing operations by ensuring that hydraulic fracturing operations conducted on the public mineral estate … follow certain best practices, including: (1) The public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on federal and Indian lands; (2) confirmation that wells used in fracturing operations meet appropriate construction standards; and (3) a requirement that operators put appropriate plans in place for managing flowback waters from fracturing operations.”

BSEE Proposes Stricter Rules for Offshore Production Systems

Source: Fuel Fix | 22 August 2013

The Obama administration proposed a rule to tighten standards for oil and gas production systems used offshore in a bid to keep pace with the industry’s march into deeper waters and more challenging terrain.

The 149-page proposal also would require more rigorous cradle-to-grave assessments of critical safety and pollution prevention equipment, such as foam firefighting systems and electronic emergency shutdown devices.

The measure has been in the works for years, as offshore regulators sought to update standards that haven’t been significantly revised since they were first published in 1988.

“Since that time, much of the oil and gas production on the outer continental shelf has moved into deeper waters, and the regulations have not kept pace with the technological advancements,” the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in the proposal.


Former Coast Guard Vice Admiral Becomes New BSEE Director

Source: US Department of the Interior | 15 August 2013


Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell named former Vice Admiral Brian Salerno as the Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which provides federal oversight for oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf. Salerno, who retired from the US Coast Guard last year as its deputy commandant for operations, will assume his new position on August 26.


“Brian Salerno is an accomplished professional who brings proven expertise in maritime safety and emergency response management to the job,” Jewell said. “As we continue to strengthen the nation’s program to ensure safe and responsible offshore oil and gas exploration and development, I believe Brian has the experience, vision, and the leadership to be a great asset to the bureau, the department and the nation.”

Salerno will serve as the third director in BSEE’s history, following the departure of Jim Watson at the end of the month.

Understanding the Path for UK Shale Exploration

The UK government has recently published further details on a package of tax, planning, and community benefits to help kick-start shale gas exploration in the UK. These measures will be welcomed by those in (or looking to enter) the industry because they are generally favorable and increase the levels of clarity and certainty—prerequisites for an industry that relies on long-term investment.

The relevant documents published last week are a government consultation regarding a specific tax regime for shale gas and guidelines to local authorities for considering planning requests for onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction.

These measures have followed soon after studies showing that the UK’s shale gas resources are much larger than previously anticipated, and can be seen as the next step in developing a thriving shale gas industry in the UK.