‘Breathtakingly Inept’: Offshore Industry Braced for Major Safety Regulations

Posted: 12/19/2010

The offshore oil industry is bracing itself for the introduction of significant new regulations as the findings of a Presidential panel investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are released in January.

Speaking at a conference in Louisiana, William Reilly, the co-Chair of the Presidential commission blamed ‘breathtakingly inept’ lapses in safety measures which led to the ‘largely’ preventable disaster.

The seven-member panel is the latest in a long line of enquiries aimed at uncovering the root causes of the devastating explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, as well as offering guidance on the future of offshore drilling.

"There is virtual consensus among all the sophisticated observers of this debacle that three of the leading players in the industry made a series of missteps, miscalculations and miscommunications that were breathtakingly inept and largely preventable,"

Direct Rebuke of BP

In remarks which will be received as a direct rebuke of BP in the wake of the findings of the Texas City disaster, Reilly continued; "There is also no question...that certain companies were well known within the industry to be laggards when it came to a safety culture," Reilly said. "Yet the industry stood by and let disaster happen."

Commentators were speculating that the findings of the report would be used to force though ‘significant’ and ‘sweeping’ new regulations, including the establishment of an inter-company safety institute similar to the one the nuclear industry formed after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The institute would address lapses that led to the Gulf spill.

Whilst the findings of the commission relate directly only to the US offshore oil and gas industry, other countries are sure to look to the findings to determine how to manage the impact of offshore drilling in their own territories, with many governments set to introduce their own new legislation in the new year.

In closing remarks, Reilly gave warning that operators engaged in offshore E&P should prepare for an unsympathetic response should Macondo be repeated. "If this should happen again...the public and governmental response will be disproportionately severe," Reilly said. "Because the American people are not going to forget the Deepwater Horizon."

Posted: 12/19/2010

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