Deepwater Safety StandardsWed, 01/25/2012 - 14:51
The Macondo incident had a large impact on the global view of deepwater safety standards, according to Javier Estrada Estrada, Commissioner at the National Hydrocarbons Comission (CNH). “It developed and evolved in such a way that even the US, a country experienced in regulating deepwater activity and home to the world’s most experienced deepwater operators, were taken by surprise. The disaster gave the impression that investors were willing to go far beyond what current technology was able to safely deliver, and engage in activities far beyond what regulations were able to safeguard,” Estrada Estrada says “The debate following Deepwater Horizon went as far as to question whether regulators in the US had missed the point. Regardless of whether they were doing their job correctly or not, public perception was that the regulators were not ensuring the safety of deepwater operations.”
As a result, regulators all over the world took a fresh look at their deepwater regulations for the oil and gas industry. The CNH had only been in existence for two years at the time of the Macondo blowout, and one of its first major activities was to investigate Mexico’s safety regulations for deepwater exploration and production, an area that Pemex was just beginning to develop in 2010. Until the creation
of the CNH, Pemex had essentially been self-regulated, so there were many questions regarding how far the CNH should go in terms of starting to regulate the Mexican NOC. Estrada Estrada recalls that after the government took the decision that the CNH would regulate Pemex in matters of safety and risk management, the reaction from the NOC was that it was already doing a good job of regulating itself. “Pemex told us it was operating safely by using the principles laid down by the US Minerals Management Service (MMS),” Estrada Estrada says “However, no matter how closely they were following these principles, the fact of the matter was that at the end of the day, Pemex was still regulating itself. We needed to step in at this point, even if it was only to maintain existing high safety standards at the NOC, but to step away from self-regulation in order to ensure the safety of Pemex personnel and equipment.” Since that time, the CNH has worked to develop safety regulations for deepwater operations in Mexico, based on existing norms in the industry, and on current international developments following the Macondo blowout. By planning contingencies for the worst-case scenario, Estrada Estrada believes that the deepwater industry will be safe and well- regulated as it develops in the years to come.