The Ocean

Offshore Drilling Looks Optimistic Despite BP Oil Spill

The BP oil spill was one of the most significant environmental disasters of the past year and just about everyone has an opinion on what oil companies and government regulators did wrong.

During the SEJ conference on Friday morning, experts Walter Cruickshank, Erik Milito and Elgie Holstein explained that measures are being taken to ensure that if something like this ever happens again, both oil companies and the government will be much more prepared to handle the situation.

One of the largest problems that the industry is dealing with is the need to keep drilling requirements up to date with the ever-continuous development of new technology.

According to Holstein, senior director for Strategic Planning of the Environmental Defense Fund, government must maintain pace with change.

“The technology necessary to keep up with those challenging conditions will continue to evolve and, therefore, the regulatory oversight and the expertise on the part of the government must keep up as well.”

Holstein argued that in addition to all of the new safety regulations which companies must adhere to before obtaining a drilling permit, keeping their machines updated with new technology will be one of the prime challenges of offshore drilling companies.

Along with keeping up with new technology, enforcing stricter safety rules for oil companies is another thing that will lessen the likelihood that a disaster of this magnitude will happen again.

Milito, director of Upstream and Industry Operations for the American Petroleum Institute (API), discussed how in order to obtain an offshore drilling permit, companies are now held to much stricter safety standards.

“Right around the time of the spill [the API] created a new standard, it’s called Recommended Practices Part Two, which in just four months after the spill, was updated with a standard that changed a lot of wording in there from should-do things to must-do things,” said Milito.

There are many new safety standards like this, and now, most regulations require safety precautions that used to only be recommended.

Two updated programs are the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which are dedicated to spill safety, prevention and response.

One of the results of BSEE, according to Cruickshank, deputy director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is “for the first time in our agency the creation of an Environmental Enforcement Division.”

This division will provide oversight of the companies to make sure they are complying with the updated safety and prevention requirements.

Many efforts are being made to ensure that nothing like the BP spill ever happens again, however, the next problem with offshore drilling will be different and Cruickshank assured the crowd that safety regulations are being made with many different worst-case scenarios in mind in order to be prepared for whatever may happen.

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