BP pledges enhanced safety for drilling in the US Gulf of Mexico

By Phaedra Friend Troy

In a letter to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael Bromwich, BP (NYSE:BP) has pledged to increase safety, implementing a new set of standards in deepwater oil and gas drilling operations in the US Gulf of Mexico.

In an effort to get back to drilling following the Deepwater Horizon accident and Macondo oil spill of 2010, the new BP safety standards exceed the existing BOEMRE regulatory requirements for drilling in the US Gulf of Mexico.

"BP's commitment in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident is not only to restore the economic and environmental conditions among the affected areas of the Gulf Coast, but also to apply what we have learned to improve the way we operate," said BP group chief executive Bob Dudley. "We believe the commitments we have outlined today will promote greater levels of safety and preparedness in deepwater drilling."

BP is making the safety standards public as it begins to implement them into its operations in the Gulf. First of all, BP will require its contractors to use subsea blowout preventors (BOPs) with no fewer than two-blind shear rams and a casing shear ram on all dynamically positioned deepwater rigs. For moored drilling rigs, BP will require a BOP with two shear rams -- at least one blind shear ram and an additional blind shear ram or a casing shear ram.

Additionally, BP will require that a third-party verify that the testing and maintenance on the BOP are performed accurately.

BP will also require laboratory testing of all cement slurries, witnessed by a BP engineer or third-party provider. These lab results will be shared with the BOEMRE.

Furthermore, BP's Oil Spill Response Plan will include information for enhanced measures for responding to an oil spill in open water, near shore and along the shoreline. 

"BP is adopting these voluntary actions as part of its commitment to safe and reliable operations, and to help rebuild trust in the company following last year's accident and oil spill," said James Dupree, BP regional president, Gulf of Mexico. "BP is the largest lease holder in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and we intend to be a significant business presence here for a long time to come. We look forward to implementing these best practices and sharing what we've learned."

Additionally, BP is creating a real-time drilling operations center in Houston, assessing and increasing well control competencies, and working with groups to increase industry response technologies and capabilities.

BP plans to share its experiences and lessons learned with regulators and operators in other countries to increase their knowledge as well.

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