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Managing SEMS Audits: Past, Present, and Future

Safety and environmental stewardship have always been important priorities for the offshore oil and gas industry. In recent years, serious offshore incidents forced the industry to take a hard look at its processes and procedures for ensuring that every operation is conducted with the highest regard for human safety and protection of the sea, land, air, and animal life. While the majority of offshore operators and service companies implemented plans to continuously improve their corporate safety and environmental standards, offshore operators are now legally obligated to adhere to new regulations. In the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM), the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) established Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) regulations, which companies operating oil and gas and sulfur leases in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) must meet with regularly audited safety and environmental programs.

From Recommendation to Requirement

The concept of SEMS was developed in response to the 1990 finding of the National Research Council’s Marine Board that the Bureau’s prescriptive approach to regulating offshore operations had forced the industry into a compliance mentality. Further, the Marine Board found that this compliance mentality was not conducive to effectively identifying all the potential operational risks or developing comprehensive accident mitigation. As a result, the Marine Board recommended, and the Bureau concurred, that a more systematic approach to managing offshore operations was needed.

In response to the Marine Board findings, the American Petroleum Institute (API), in cooperation with the bureau, developed Recommended Practice (RP) 75-Development of a Safety and Environmental Management Program for Outer Continental Shelf Operations and Facilities. The API also produced a companion document, RP-14J, for identifying safety hazards on offshore production facilities. API RP-75 was published in May 1993 and, in 1994, the bureau published a notice in the Federal Register that recognized implementation of RP-75 as meeting the spirit and intent of SEMS. RP-75 was updated in 1998 to focus more on contract operations, including operations on mobile offshore drilling units. This recommended practice was updated several times in the following decade; a third edition was published in May 2004, which was reaffirmed in May 2008.

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Managing SEMS Audits: Past, Present, and Future

Greg Gordillo and Lucas Lopez-Videla, Bureau Veritas

01 February 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 2

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