Drill rig

The US Government has proposed regulations for safe exploration drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea planning areas in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Released by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the regulations require operators to submit region-specific response plans for oil spills and have prompt access to source control and containment equipment.

A separate relief rig should be available in case well control is lost.

"These proposed regulations are designed to ensure that offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to the highest safety standards."

The proposed regulations further develop the existing Arctic-specific operational standards to make sure that operators take the required measures to plan through entire phases of offshore exploration.

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said: "The Arctic has substantial oil and gas potential, and the US has a longstanding interest in the orderly development of these resources, which includes establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, the surrounding communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives.

"These proposed regulations issued extend the administration’s thoughtful approach to balanced oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, and are designed to ensure that offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to the highest safety standards."

The OCS is an important part of the country’s domestic energy strategy.

Earlier this year, the US released the Draft Proposed Programme (DPP) for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Programme for 2017-22.

The DPP proposed three potential lease sales offshore Alaska, including the availability of leasing areas that have 90% of unidentified technically recoverable oil and gas resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea areas.


Image: The proposed regulations require operators to plan through entire phases of offshore exploration. Photo: courtesy of suwatpo/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.