Gulf of Mexico oil spill makes most headlines in 2010 (4)

14:07, December 28, 2010      

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Though some analysts say the spill may not be horrible enough to jolt the U.S. government into dramatic action on energy and climate policies, it did lead to changes in the overseeing of oil and gas drilling and may result in more changes in drilling activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Minerals Management Service under the Interior Department, the leading offshore drilling regulatory agency, has long been criticized for its laxness towards the oil companies and its failure to properly assume its duty as a regulator. After the BP incident, the Minerals Management Service was split into three independent entities to reinforce their roles.

In the latest development, a presidential panel investigating the massive oil spill recommended oil and gas companies drilling off the U.S. coast set up a safety institute similar to the one that the nuclear industry formed after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The institute would address lapses that led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico may feel the direct impact from the spill. A temporary deep-water drilling ban was put in place shortly after the outbreak of the incident, idling companies operating in the region. Though the U.S. government lifted the ban on Oct. 12, which was only scheduled to expire on Nov. 30, oil companies were asked to meet new safety requirements.

The new safety rules require that chief executives of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas companies certify that drilling rigs meet updated safety rules and that companies prove they have access to enough spill containment equipment to respond to a "worst case discharge" of oil and gas from their proposed wells if a spill occurs.

Some industry leaders have greeted the lift of the drilling ban with caution and even a bit of frustration, saying vaguely written rules are as much a hinderance to the industry as the ban was.

Major energy companies, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, have clearly voiced their intention to restart drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as soon as the government grants them permits, despite the fact that winning a government permit will be much more complex and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico will not be the same as it was before the BP spill.

Source: Xinhua
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