Rogelio Verdugo
Northwest Technical Solutions

New US Standards Create Opportunity in Mexico

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 14:16

In July 2016, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) implemented new well control rules including updated requirements for blowout preventers, third-party reviews and real-time monitoring for users of drilling equipment. Houston-based verification and engineering firm Northwest Technical Solutions believes the development, which raised international safety standards for operators and drilling contractors, is creating opportunities south of the border as the country comes to grips with its own evolving oil market.

The US changes, which are being phased in over the next several years, come on the back of the probes into 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The disaster resulted in the deaths of 11 people and an estimated release of 4.9 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, prompting US regulators to take a hard look at well safety standards. The new rules demand well operators comply with more detailed safety, maintenance and monitoring processes.

As a company with a trained team of engineers and technical inspectors, Northwest is well-positioned to disseminate its knowledge of BSEE’s new regulations and to issue companies with the necessary inspections and certifications to assure their compliance. According to company President Rogelio Verdugo, “the previous rules focused on the well as a whole, not specifically on the pressure control and containment equipment used in both drilling and remedial operations.” Additionally, BSEE’s guidelines require users to implement real-time monitoring for all drilling equipment, a standard that will raise compliance responsibilities considerably, Verdugo adds.

Northwest Technical Solutions has employed various strategies to help the industry adjust to this new regulatory panorama, beginning with a partnership with a well-recognized automated solutions provider. The alliance looks to develop real-time well equipment monitoring systems and Verdugo highlights the product’s impartiality as its main competitive advantage. “Our real-time monitoring is completely thirdparty. What you see is what you get, giving our clients the best chance to identify subsea issues before they worsen.”

Northwest also offers workshops to share its regulatory knowledge. “Our workshops open a casual conversation with clients, potential clients and interested industry parties, specifically about the new well control rules and also API Standard 53, which concerns blowout preventer equipment maintenance,” Verdugo adds.

In the coming years, Mexico’s oil and gas industry faces the double challenge of adopting new international regulations while absorbing its own new regulatory framework set out by CNH, ASEA and the Ministry of Energy. As compliance and safety becomes a hot topic, Verdugo identifies an ensuing shift in responsibility, which is altering the way certain companies function. “Maintenance and compliance of specific drilling equipment used to be the sole responsibility of the drilling contractors and manufacturers,” he says. But under the new BSEE rules, more of it falls on the shoulders of operators, drilling contractors and verification companies to guarantee the quality of each component. “In fact, drilling contractors are now using these regulations to win contracts with operators, citing 100 percent equipment compliance as a competitive advantage,” he adds.

More responsibility has also shifted onto third-party verification firms like Northwest because the new well control rules mean more input will be needed from independent firms to issue nonbiased compliance certificates. The fact that the new rules focus specifically on well control equipment is also advantageous for Northwest’s transition into Mexican territory. “It means our knowledge is easily transferred across the border because we are dealing with the same manufacturers and equipment here as in the US,” the executive says.

Verdugo believes the regulatory challenges Mexico faces could present an opportunity for the country to put new technologies and methods to use, such as data collection and analysis processes. “With our headquarters being in the oil and gas hub of Houston, Northwest is always exposed to new technologies, regulations and developments in equipment and we intend to bring this knowledge to Mexico.”