President Donald Trump's administration is considering revising parts of offshore drilling safety regulations intended to prevent the type of blowout that led to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Those potential changes will "strike the appropriate balance" between safety, the environment, and energy production, the administration says. But the revisions, including a plan to let some operators reduce how often they test blowout preventers, could expose the administration to criticisms it is increasing the risks of another major oil spill. The US Interior Department disclosed its plans for revising the safety regulations on 25 October in a report describing its efforts to reduce regulatory burdens on oil and gas production on federally owned areas located onshore and offshore. Those plans consist almost entirely of rolling back or revising rules issued under former president Barack Obama.
The British Columbia government is moving forward with the second phase of spill regulations, announcing further stakeholder engagement on important elements such as spill response in sensitive areas and geographic response plans. The government will also establish an independent scientific advisory panel to recommend whether, and how, heavy oils (such as bitumen) can be safely transported and cleaned up. While the advisory panel is proceeding, the government is proposing regulatory restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen (dilbit) transportation. The second phase engagement process follows the first phase of regulatory overhaul introduced in October 2017, when the province established higher standards for spill preparedness, response, and recovery. Feedback and Engagement The province is planning an intentions paper for the end of February that will outline the government's proposed regulations and will be available for public comment.
Ahead of the release of the Trump administration's changes to Obama-era rules governing offshore oil platforms, Michael Bromwich is worried. "I don't think they are in the public's interest," he said. Nearly 9 years ago, the high-profile Bromwich was appointed by President Obama to lead the offshore regulatory agency shortly after the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At the time, countless investigations were launched, and they confirmed something that had long been understood: Government regulators had fairly weak enforcement abilities and were too chummy with oil executives. Bromwich helped create the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, better known as BSEE.
A new study of the Deepwater Horizon response showed that massive quantities of chemically engineered dispersants injected at the wellhead--roughly 1,500 m beneath the surface--were unrelated to the formation of the massive deepwater oil plume. A University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led research team analyzed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the most toxic components of petroleum, based on the BP Gulf Science Data's extensive water chemistry samples taken within a 10-km radius of the blowout site. The results of this analysis demonstrated that substantial amounts of oil continued to the surface near the response site, despite 3,000 tons of subsea dispersants injection--a new spill response strategy meant to curb the spread of oil and facilitate its degradation. Dispersants application to manage surface oil spills has been shown to break the oil into small, easily dissolved droplets. However, the Deepwater Horizon was very different in that the oil entered the system at depth.
Ramanan Krishnamoorti envisions a world where accidents like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill can be prevented. So, more than a year ago, Krishnamoorti and his team at the University of Houston started working on a predictive model that could alert oil and gas company employees when a problem might arise -- and how to mitigate it. "We are trying to apply fundamental science and engineering processes to predict when a catastrophic event might occur and to develop new methodologies to monitor the process," said Krishnamoorti, the school's chief energy officer and director of its Subsea Systems Institute. And last month, the team received $1.2 million from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Gulf Research Program (GRP) to continue its research. Before this grant, the project was funded by $50,000 from the institute, created in 2015 to find ways to reduce the risk of offshore accidents and oil spills following the 2010 accident.
Offshore oil and gas drillers need to better protect against spills during disruptions such as hurricanes and power outages, the American Petroleum Institute recommended on 8 November. Under a new standard put out by the trade group, companies are advised to use wellhead valves that automatically shut off in the event of a loss of power or other emergency situation. "The safety of our operations is of paramount importance to our industry. Ensuring the immediate closure of valves connecting underwater production systems to surface facilities will help keep workers safe and adds an additional layer of environmental protection where they operate," Debra Phillips, vice president of API Global Industry Services, said in a statement. The Trump administration has been steadily rolling back federal regulations governing offshore drilling put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico.
Even as the Trump administration has taken steps to expand offshore oil drilling, a new report shows that thousands of oil spills are still happening and that workers in the oil and gas industry are still dying on the job. The report comes from Oceana, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the oceans, which has sued the federal government to stop seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. The blasting is the first step needed to allow offshore drilling, when seismic airguns are used to find oil and gas deep under the ocean. Every state along the Atlantic coast has opposed the blasting, worried that spills could hurt tourism and local fisheries. Some scientists say the testing could also hurt marine life, including the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was affected by heat. This paper evaluates the association between environmental heat exposure and self-reported heat-related symptoms in US Coast Guard Deepwater Horizon disaster responders. Using climate data and post-deployment survey responses from 3,648 responders, heat-exposure categories were assigned on the basis of of both wet-bulb-globe-temperature (WBGT) and heat-index (HI) measurements (median, mean, maximum). Prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated with adjusted Poisson regression models with robust error variance to estimate associations with reported heat-related symptoms. The association between use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and heat-related symptoms was also evaluated.