The Interior Department Wednesday ended its overhaul of offshore safety practices brought about by Deepwater Horizon disaster a little more than two years ago, issuing a final rule on requirements for safety equipment, well control systems and blowout prevention (BOP) practices.

The final rule contains only a few minor changes from the interim drilling safety rule, which was issued in the months just after the accident in 2010 (see Daily GPI, Oct. 1, 2010) under an emergency rulemaking process. "The oil and gas industry has been operating under these enhance [offshore] safety requirements for the past two years," said James Watson, the head of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

The offshore industry has "effectively complied" with these offshore reforms during that period, the agency said.

"The administration's priority is continuing to expand offshore oil and gas development, while ensuring that drilling operations in our oceans continue to be the safest in the world," Watson said.

The rule improves upon pre-Deepwater Horizon regulations by establishing new standards for casing and cementing, including integrity testing requirements; third-party certification and verification requirements; BOP capability, testing and documentation obligations; and standards for specific well control training, according to BSEE.

The final rule refines the interim rule by "enhancing the description and classification of well-control barriers; defining testing requirements for cement; clarifying requirements for the installation of dual mechanical barriers; and extending requirements for BOPs and well-control fluids to well-completions, workovers and decommissioning operations," the agency said.

The final rule will go into effect 60 days after its published in the Federal Register.

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