Interior moves ahead on offshore drilling safety institute

“The Institute will help federal regulators keep pace with new processes employed by the industry as they move into deeper water and deeper geologic plays that require technological innovation to bring projects into production," BSEE Director James Watson said.

The agency is committing $5 million over five years for operating the institute.

It’s missions include R&D, training federal workers in identifying the safest technologies, and implementing improvements in environmental protection and safety, containing blowouts and spill response, according to the solicitation for applications.

The institute is envisioned as a place for collaboration among academics, industry, the government and others, and will be “an important source of unbiased, independent information and will not have any regulatory authority over the offshore industry,” BSEE said Wednesday.

Creation of the institute stems from a recommendation of the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee (OESC), a federal advisory panel created after the 2010 BP disaster that dumped several million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“While there have been other efforts to identify technological gaps and to recommend improvement of drilling and production equipment, practices, and regulation, the Institute would strive to bring these efforts together to coordinate and focus their respective work product,” BSEE said in announcing the plan.

Interior officials said the institute will be a valuable source of information and the offshore industry pushes into increasingly challenging terrain.

“The continued shift of the offshore oil and gas industry into deeper water and frontier areas requires new expertise for offshore workers and the regulators who oversee leasing, environmental reviews, exploration, development and production operations,” said David Hayes, Interior’s outgoing deputy secretary.


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