04 May 2010 22:48 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US energy industry officials announced on Tuesday two task forces with private sector and government members to seek speedy resolution of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak and make long-term improvements in offshore drilling safety.
Citing the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and resulting massive oil spill, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard said that “this tragic incident requires that we re-double our commitment to continually improve safety and response practices”.
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Gerard said API was working with energy industry companies and was inviting government participants in forming the two task forces. One would focus on offshore equipment and the other would look into offshore operating procedures.
“In the very near term, the task forces will bring together relevant experts to identify and further reduce risks of offshore operations,” Gerard said.
Erik Milito, API’s director of upstream and industry operations, said that each task force would have near-term objectives - chiefly stopping the oil leak - and long-term goals to improve both offshore equipment and operations.
Milito said membership of the two task forces was still being assembled and that API would invite government officials to participate.
“Anyone out there who has direct expertise in these offshore operations is welcome and is invited to be part of this process,” Milito said.
He said it was too early to say whether the task forces would have budgets or meeting venues or other more formal organisational structures.
“This will be a lot like post-Katrina where the industry came together to find out what worked and what didn’t and to gather lessons learned,” Milito said.
He was referring to the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that devastated the US Gulf Coast, shutting down hundreds of offshore drilling rigs and production platforms, destroying some and damaging many.
He said the two task forces were open-ended and had no envisioned termination date.
Gerard said the offshore equipment task force would bring together manufacturers, subsea gear specialists and deepwater contractors to focus on maintenance, response and testing of blowout-preventer equipment and remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs).
The offshore operating procedures group, he said, “will leverage the expertise of offshore operators and members of the service sector to strengthen practices related to drilling and completion of deepwater wells”.
The API task force announcement came as environmentalists, other interest groups, members of Congress and other government officials were calling for re-imposition of an offshore drilling ban that for nearly four decades barred energy development in 85% of the US outer continental shelf (OCS) regions outside the
Those drilling moratoria were allowed to expire at the end of 2008. US chemical producers and a broad range of other manufacturers dependent on oil and natural gas supplies had long lobbied to lift the moratoria and had been hoping for development of what may be vast and untapped OCS energy resources.
Those expectations could be in jeopardy, according to sources. Earlier, API and other industry officials cautioned that the Deepwater Horizon tragedy should not be used to justify a new offshore drilling ban.
Asked if the task forces and their respective goals were in part meant to respond to renewed demands for offshore drilling moratoria, Milito said that “this is not about influencing policy, it is purely to improve industry practices where we can”.
“There are several priorities in this,” he said. “First is to for the industry to work together to cap this well. A top priority also is to contain the oil and work with government to prevent environmental harm.”
“The other top priority is to work to improve offshore operations and safety,” Milito continued.
“We mourn the loss of our workers, and our prayers go out to their families,” he said. “We owe it to them and to offshore workers to do all we can to protect them.”
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