Mexico equally committed to offshore improvements, US officials say

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 5 -- US energy officials emerged from meetings with their counterparts in Mexico with positive statements for the Mexicans’ commitments to improve offshore oil and gas safety and environmental protections.

“Everything I have heard here shows that the Mexicans are giving a high priority to developing high standards and giving their resources the care and protection they deserve,” said William K. Reilly, co-chairman of US President Barack Obama’s independent oil spill investigation commission, who joined US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar at the talks in Mexico City.

Discussions there and in Brazil included possible new regulations for blowout preventers (BOPs) following the release of independent investigator Det Norske Veritas’s finding that the device did not operate properly on the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico on Apr. 20, 2010, Salazar said.

“We know that Mexico’s hydrocarbons commission is looking at BOPs and is following our ongoing investigation,” he said during a teleconference, which also included Reilly and Deputy US Interior Sec. David J. Hayes. “I have my own views which have been reflected in new regulations we have imposed, but also will be looking to develop additional improvements to BOPs, mostly in the areas of instrumentation, actuation, and effectiveness in relation to blind shear rams.”

Hayes said, “We will be working with the new Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee to get their input on new rules. We likely will be moving forward with a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months to get proposed views on new regulations covering BOPs.” 

Discussions also included transboundary issues and sharing spill containment capabilities, the US officials indicated. “They recognize that within the gulf, there are assets operating in US waters which would be effective operating in Mexican waters and vice versa,” Salazar said. “It’s important as we move forward and look at the gulf in its entirety and that there be a close and ongoing relationship with Mexico on all these issues.”

Mexican officials recognize that the country has had its share of significant offshore oil accidents, he added. “The Ixtoc spill of 1979 is not far from their minds,” he said.

Reilly said the US industry’s formation of two new offshore oil spill containment organizations as oil leaked from the damaged Macondo well was a constructive response. “I was very encouraged to hear the chairman of Pemex yesterday express interest in becoming part of the Marine Well Containment Co.,” he said. “We believe that what resources are available would be shared with Mexico, and they would share the resources they have with us.”

Reilly added, “Mexico is a very large part of the gulf, and what one country does will have an impact on the other. There are very good reasons for having common deepwater exploration and production standards.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.



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