Salazar proposes new federal-private 'institute' to bolster spill prevention

The institute would look at industry-wide practices regarding drilling safety, spill containment and response, and identifying and funding new offshore drilling technologies. Those technologies would particularly hone in on enhancing blowout preventers for wells and spill containment. 

Salazar laid outthe idea to oil-and-gas industry officials at a meeting last month.

The meeting included senior officials from BP and Transocean — both companies deeply involved in and responding to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Other officials included those from Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Ocean Industries Association, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., and Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. 

Salazar said at the meeting that the goal should be to have the CEOs from the companies and groups attending to reconvene with the Interior Secretary in mid-November, according to participants. 
In the meantime, industry officials were asked to nominate representatives for the new panel and to hammer out other details with administration staff, sources at the meeting said.

But it is unclear how enthusiastic companies will be to participate.

Industry officials want the department to focus on setting up a quick path toward issuing deepwater drilling permits that were banned for months following the April 20 blowout of BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. There is also concern that shallow-water projects not officially banned have dramatically slowed since the spill as well.

Salazar late last month released a set of post-Gulf spill safety requirements that prescribes regulations regarding the design, cementing and casing of wells and the use of drilling fluids. It would also require that blowout preventers — the last line of defense before a well ruptures and the mechanism that failed to prevent the BP spill — have to be independently certified.