WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), July 15, 2011
The nation's top offshore drilling regulator welcomed a plan by BP Friday to voluntarily beef up safety standards and said ExxonMobil, Shell and other major oil companies are equipped to follow suit.
Speaking at a congressional hearing, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said BP knows it has to prove it can operate safely following last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"BP has clearly been through a lot," said bureau Director Michael Bromwich. The company is going to have to "win back not only regulators' confidence, but the public's confidence as well."
BP disclosed Friday it was adopting drilling standards that go beyond existing federal requirements. Specifically, BP said it will require drillers to use more robust equipment, mandating subsea blowout preventers to be equipped with at least two blind shear rams.
BP also said it will use third parties to verify maintenance procedures and oversee testing, and enhance certain measures for responding to an oil spill.
Bromwich said he suspected that Exxon Mobil, Shell and other major oil operators could adopt similar measures, adding that the standards were technologically and economically viable for large companies.
Bromwich also said the measures that BP was undertaking could be folded into a set of new drilling regulations on which his agency is working. He said those new rules would be "broad" and "far-reaching," but he acknowledged the oil and natural-gas industry is wary of the agency adopting new requirements too often and too quickly.
Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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