The Interior Department Friday announced the industry, academic and federal government representatives who have been named to the Ocean Energy Advisory Committee, a permanent advisory panel of the nation's leading scientific, engineering and technical experts who will provide guidance on improving offshore safety, well containment and spill response.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has asked former Sandia National Laboratory Director Tom Hunter, who was a member of the scientific team assembled to assist in containing and capping BP plc's Macondo well, to be chairman of the 15-member committee. The blowout of the Macondo well resulted in an explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig last April, killing 11 workers (see Daily GPI, April 22, 2010).

Committee representatives from the offshore industry are Charlie Williams, chief scientist for well engineering and production technology, Shell Oil Co.; Paul Siegele, president of Chevron's Energy Technology Co.; Joseph Gebara, senior manager, structural engineer of Technip USA Inc.; and Don Jacobsen, senior vice president, operations with Noble Drilling Services Inc.

The federal government members of the committee include: Walter Cruickshank, deputy director of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement; Christopher Smith, deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas in the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy; Capt. Patrick Little, commanding officer of the Marine Safety Center at the U.S. Coast Guard; Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for solid water and emergency response, Environmental Protection Agency; David Westerholm, director of the Office of Response and Restoration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Steve Hickman, a geophysicist with Interior's U.S. Geological Survey.

Committee members representing the academic community and nongovernmental organizations are: Nancy Leveson, professor of system safety and process safety, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Richard Sears, senior science and engineering advisor and chief scientist, National Commission of the BP Deepwater Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling; Tad Patzek, professor and chairman, Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, University of Texas at Austin; and Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society.

The committee may establish technical working groups to focus on critical areas related to offshore drilling, such as drilling and workplace safety; intervention and containment; and oil spill response, according to Interior.

The safety committee is the first step toward the creation of a proposed industry-run Ocean Energy Safety Institute, which would promote research and development, and training in areas related to offshore energy safety. The committee would provide advice on how best to form the institute, and on what role the committee should play in the institute, according to Interior officials (see Daily GPI, Jan. 26).

The final report on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which was released in January, proposed the establishment of a "safety institute that is entirely controlled and managed by industry, which enforces best practice, which evaluates, which audits and which grades the performance of various companies," said William Reilly, co-chair of the presidential commission, which held hearings into the BP well blowout and issued the final report (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12). The safety institute would supplement the government's oversight of industry operations.

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