The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will be issuing new requirements for the blowout preventers (BOP) by the end of the year, according to agency director Brian M. Salerno.
BOPs are large, high-pressure valves used to prevent oil and gas from escaping during well drilling operations. They are usually stacked atop of each other to be used as backup.
Once it was determined that a part of the BOP atop BP’s Macondo well had eroded, many of the main manufacturers voluntarily began revamping designs and developing related parts to strengthen their integrity; however, the Houston Chronicle reported that Salerno is working with Rep. Pete Olson, R- Sugar Land and other lawmakers to make these improvements a federal law.
It is expected that BSEE will be extremely specific in it rules by laying out performance and operational standards for the BOPs, even employing technology that could diagnose potential threats or unexplained rises in oil and gas. Salerno said that BSEE is consulting with BOP manufacturers and their customers while drafting requirements, with a public forum held in May 2012 that initiated their consultation.
It is speculated that one of the requirements could be employing a second set of shearing rams. The drill pipe at Macondo was found by forensic investigators to have shifted. With the drill pipe slightly out of position, the blind shear rams were prevented from cutting the pipe and sealing off the surge of oil and gas. Some operators in the Gulf of Mexico are already voluntarily using a second set of shears.
With the explosion of Macondo, 11 people were killed and more than 4 MMbo were released into the Gulf of Mexico.
Salerno, a former US Coast Guard vice-admiral, was elected as BSEE’s third director in August after retiring in 2012 as its deputy commandant for operations. His experience lies predominantly in maritime safety, security, environment protection and emergency response.