The first set of regulations is aimed at drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed rule addresses well control with measures designed to improve equipment reliability, building on enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers and technology. The rule also includes reforms in well design, well control, casing, cementing, real-time well monitoring and subsea containment.
The new Alaska regulations cover offshore exploration drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas planning areas. The new regs are a combination of performance-based and prescriptive standards to codify and further develop current Arctic-specific operational standards. Specifically, the new regulations require operators to submit region-specific oil spill response plans, have prompt access to source control and containment equipment, and have a relief rig available to drill a relief well in the event of a loss of well control.
The new regulations in the Gulf should not impact offshore service vessel owners much. The cost of compliance with the new regs is not onerous and is unlikely to slow drilling activity. The new Alaska regs may be beneficial for the OSV market. The provision for prompt access to source control and containment equipment should translate into more vessels being required for standby in case of an accident. And the requirement to immediately provide a relief rig to drill a relief well will require additional OSVs. While the benefits may not be overwhelming, it is clear that Alaska operations will require more vessels when it resumes.