Subscribe

BP Gulf oil spill anniversary comes with new regulations

Five years after the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is out with new regulations on offshore drilling. The hope is to prevent future catastrophe, but environmentalists say offshore drilling still isn't worth the risks to ocean life.

  • close
    Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in 2010.
    Reuters/US Coast Guard/Handout
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

The Obama administration is proposing a new regulation on offshore oil and gas drilling meant to prevent the kind of accident that caused the deadly explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago, causing the largest oil spill in American history.

The draft rule by the US Interior Department would require stronger blowout preventers, devices meant to close an offshore well in case of an accidental drilling breach. A blowout preventer failed at the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010, apparently causing the explosion that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf, according to US government estimates.

The draft regulation, which was announced April 13, is the third announced by the Obama administration since the spill at the Macondo well. In 2010, the Interior Department imposed new rules on the strength of well casings, and two years later it strengthened rules on the use of cement to reinforce wells. (Related: EIA Changes Tack On Latest Oil Crisis)

Recommended: Oil prices: 5 reasons they keep falling

This third regulation would be required for all offshore equipment used in the future as the administration moves to permit energy drilling for the first time in some federal waters of the southeastern US Atlantic Coast. Interior is also reviewing a plan by Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska.

Allyson Anderson, the associate director of strategic engagement in the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said the new rule is meant to show that, with proper oversight, such offshore drilling can be far safer than it was five years ago.

“We’re coming on five years [since the Deepwater Horizon disaster], and we’ve been working tirelessly in the regulation division since it happened,” Anderson said. “We’ve doubled down on building a culture of safety.”

Despite this latest effort to protect the seas from oil contamination, the administration’s opening of new drilling venues has angered environmentalists, who also say they aren’t convinced that improvements in blowout preventers, while an improvement in safety practices, add up to a cure-all.

Like this article?

Subscribe to Recharge, the Monitor's weekend digest of global energy news.
Click here for a sample.

“Industry and government have taken measures over the past five years to reduce some of the risk in what is an inherently dangerous operation at sea,” said Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s a far cry from saying it’s safe. And the last thing we need is to expose Atlantic or Arctic waters to a BP-style blowout." (Related: Top 12 Media Myths On Oil Prices)

There is some disagreement even within the US government about exactly what caused the Deepwater Horizon accident.

In the current proposal, the focus is on improving the design of the blowout preventer, a tall column of valves resting on the mouth of the well. Its purpose is to close its valves in an emergency. In 2010, federal investigators said the valves closed only partially, leaving a 1.4-inch gap that allowed oil to escape into the Gulf.

But a subsequent probe by the Chemical Safety Board came up with a different finding, that the pipe running from the rig on the surface of the Gulf to the mouth of the well had buckled, rendering the blowout preventer useless, regardless of how well the preventer may have been designed.

By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

Source: http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Deepwater-Horizons-5-Year-Anniversary-Comes-With-New-Regulations.html

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best energy bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK