Kiran Stacey US drilling regulator: New rules have not affected production

Deepwater Horizon explosionThe chief regulator of US offshore oil drilling has dismissed warnings from the industry about the risk to oil output from delays in issuing new permits.

Reacting to warnings that a two-year delay could put at risk up to 680,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day by 2019, Michael Bromwich, director of the US ocean energy regulator, pointed out that no output had so far been lost. He also insisted he would not be swayed either by companies or politicians when making permitting decisions.

Answering Energy Source readers’ questions, he said:

There has been no collapse of Gulf of Mexico production – in fact, production has been unaffected by the new safety and environmental protection measures we have taken.

He also rebutted claims he was under pressure either from businessmen or politicians to speed up the permitting process.

We did not make a policy decision to speed up permitting… We approve permits one at a time but only after satisfying ourselves that they have met all applicable requirements.

He added:

I cannot control or substantially affect larger factors in the economy, including price spikes and my decisions are based on the merits and not on political pressure.

Bromwich also accused those trusting in blowout preventers (BOPs) – the device that failed in the BP oil spill – of being naive. He said:

I’ve never believed that BOPs were immune from failures, nor has my agency. A misplaced belief that any one safety measure is 100 per cent effective is a recipe for disaster.

It’s naive to think that [BOPs] will ever be “failsafe” devices. That is why a copmprehensive programme also needs to focus on planning for the worst – which is why deepwater operators are now required to prove that they can contain a subsea oil spill.

His comments came as US energy secretary Ken Salazar appointed Bromwich as head of a working group looking into the possibility of setting international rules on offshore drilling.

The full transcript of Bromwich’s Q&A session will be published on this blog later today.