This year will be a busy one for oil and gas operators in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in terms of new regulations, said an official for a group representing the offshore industries.

“We expect 2013 to be a busy year regulatory-wise because there’re some pent-up regulations that [were] carried over from 2012,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA). “It’s the beginning of a second term and usually that is the prime time for them to push out regulations that they were holding back during the election.”

Like many in the industry, NOIA is awaiting a rule from the Department of Interior on blowout preventors (BOPs). “Interior has talked about a BOP rule,” and has indicated that it hopes to have it out in the near term, Luthi said. The Interior Department focused a lot of attention on BOPs after BP plc’s Macondo rig BPO failed to shut in oil, resulting in a massive spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico (see Daily GPI, May 11, 2010).

NOIA also expects regulations soon regarding Part II Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS), which would apply to all aspects of drilling and production, Luthi said. He doesn’t believe the SEMS regulations will be “overly prescriptive,” while the BOP rule may be “more prescriptive.”

Luthi’s group also expects to hear more about the direct regulation of offshore contractors. “Normally…BSEE [Bureau of Safety Environmental Enforcement] has regulated contractors through the lessee. But shortly after the Macondo accident, then-Director [Michael] Bromwich started talking about having the ability and authority to directly regulate these contractors, which is not without controversy because the federal government does not have a contractual relationship with the contractor.”

If Interior moves on these rules early in the year, “the time table would allow them to be implemented by the end of the year,” he said.

Last month Interior’s Bureau of Land Management delayed the release of its final rule on hydraulic fracturing due in late 2012 in part to the number of comments (170,000) it received on it (see Daily GPI, Dec. 24, 2012). The department has not indicated when the final rule will be issued.

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