Over the last 25 years, deep-water oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico has increased significantly. With the move into greater water depths and with deeper wells being drilled, operations can experience higher pressures, increased temperatures, and greater uncertainty.
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends how the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) of the U.S. Department of the Interior could apply remote real-time monitoring (RRTM) to improve the safety and reduce the environmental risks of offshore oil and gas operations.
There are diverse RRTM technologies currently available, and their use varies across the industry. While no standard RRTM practice exists, the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report concluded that mandating a standard approach is not likely to work or be needed for every drilling company or well. Therefore, BSEE should pursue a performance-based regulatory framework that allows industry to determine relevant uses of RRTM based on assessed levels of risk and complexity. BSEE could use existing regulatory requirements, such as the Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) plan, to advance appropriate use of RRTM. By addressing RRTM in SEMS plans, operators could determine under which circumstances RRTM should be used, and BSEE could challenge operators when it believes that RRTM is necessary for managing risk.
In addition, BSEE should monitor RRTM technologies and best practices by using either an internal group, such as the agency’s proposed Engineering Technology Assessment Center, or an external organization, such as the Ocean Energy Safety Institute.