Abstract

In the ongoing process of the offshore industry to improve safety aspects of drilling operations, ABS continues to provide support by developing enhanced safety requirements. This paper addresses the latest research that ABS performed to enhance its understanding of critical safety aspects in drilling operations and subsequent utilization of the results in updating the ABS Guide for the Classification of Drilling Systems (ABS CDS Guide).

Several U.S. government regulatory initiatives have been implemented relative to offshore drilling operational safety. Other governmental regulators have also taken a similar approach in assessing their existing regulations with the focus on safety improvements. In parallel, the revised ABS CDS Guide provides updated safety requirements to assist industry to (1) improve overall safety in drilling operations and (2) meet regulatory compliance for the drilling systems.

ABS commenced the criteria revision process with a gap-analysis between the existing offshore drilling practices and technology (including deepwater), applicable U.S. and worldwide regulations, recognized industry codes and standards, etc. Additionally, a survey was conducted with manufacturers, operators, and drilling contractors to identify main areas where the safety aspect of drilling operation could be improved. Based on the research and survey, industry's participation was a critical element in the rule making process - it provided insight into various safety issues, concerns in drilling operations and improved understanding between the industry and the regulators or Class society. From this process, ABS was able to develop additional measures to enhance existing criteria for drilling operations, while adopting a holistic approach to the classification process of drilling systems and equipment with consideration to the applicable regulatory initiatives.

This paper outlines the currently developing regulatory changes to the U.S. drilling industry that may potentially impact worldwide drilling activities. This paper highlights the new safety requirements from our research and from the U.S. regulatory perspective, including: BOP recertification, maintenance, and testing, API RP 53 rewrite to API Spec 53 for adoption into the U.S. CFR, management of safety and environmental systems of API RP 75, safety case initiatives and the role of third-party certification. This paper discusses the adoption of a performance-based standard for offshore drilling operations in conjunction with the current prescriptive regulatory regime.

Introduction

Historically, incidents often lead to reforms and/or revisions of existing regulations and standards. In the U.S., the blowout on the Platform A-21 in the Santa Barbara Channel in January 1969 resulted in a large oil spill. Reforms from the Platform A-21 incident resulted in the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In July 1988, the accident on Piper Alpha, in the UK sector of the North Sea, led to significant changes to the North Sea safety procedures, with enforcement of these changes delegated to the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE). Similarly, the Macondo incident in the U.S. resulted in a range of reforms to the U.S. regulatory scheme for the offshore drilling industry. The offshore drilling industry has also taken the initiative to revise and update existing recommended practices, codes and standards associated with offshore drilling operations.

ABS recognizes that there is a need to assist the offshore industry by developing enhanced criteria which can lead to improved safety aspects of drilling operations. As the offshore industry seeks the development of hydrocarbon reserves in deeper water and harsher environments through advancements in offshore technology, ABS also recognizes the need to maintain our Rules with the main intent of providing for the safety and security of life, property and the natural environment.

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