BP Plc, owner of the Gulf of Mexico well that exploded a year ago next week, won’t be singled out for extra conditions when attempting to resume exploration in deep waters, according to the chief U.S. drilling regulator.
“They would have to satisfy the same requirements of other operators,” Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said in an interview today in Bloomberg’s Washington bureau. “We don’t have a provision for any requirements, extra requirements, to be imposed on BP because they’re BP.”
The blowout of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 led to the biggest U.S. offshore leak, a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf’s deep waters and a reorganization of U.S. regulation that put Bromwich, 57, in charge of setting rules and issuing permits. London-based BP has applied to drill one well since the exploration ban was lifted in October, a person in the U.S. government familiar with the application said on April 4.
“A company that has had a long record -- which BP, and many other operators have had -- that has one even very egregious incident, I’m not at all sure that this should be disqualifying,” Bromwich, who declined to comment on whether BP has filed an application, said today.
Even if he had authority to exclude companies from drilling based on their past safety records, Bromwich said he would act only when there was a pattern of “serial violations” in offshore drilling.
The House passed legislation last year that would have barred BP from receiving drilling permits based on its past safety record both at land and sea. The Senate didn’t take up the measure.
Under rules issued since the BP spill, companies that want to resume drilling in waters of 500 feet (152 meters) or deeper need to prove they could plug a well that went out of control and contain oil released during a spill.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will put out in about a month an advance notice of potential rules that will include new design requirements for blowout preventers, Bromwich said.
The blowout preventer, a stack of valves sitting atop BP’s Macondo well, failed to seal it.
BP will improve its blowout preventers with double sets of shear rams that can cut through and seal the drill pipe instead of the single set that failed last year, James Dupree, the company’s regional president for the Gulf, said at a conference in Washington yesterday.
The BP blowout killed 11 workers, injured 17, destroyed Transocean Ltd.’s $365 million Deepwater Horizon rig and spewed crude for 87 days.