the BAST requirement” (NRC 1979, 37). This was at a time when the deepest production platform in U.S. waters was around 1,000 feet and exploration drilling was being conducted by early versions of floating drilling vessels, a far cry from the technology embodied in dynamically positioned rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon, capable of drilling in waters up to 8,000 feet deep.3

It is therefore not surprising that the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee, a federal advisory group, recommended establishment of an Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI), whose functions would include providing support to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in carrying out technology assessment and facilitating BAST implementation.4 BSEE has, subsequently, initiated a solicitation for the operation and maintenance of an OESI.5 This committee concurs with the observations and recommendation of the 1979 committee concerning the critical need to augment the regulator’s technical capabilities for implementing BAST. Furthermore, this committee notes the difficulty of hiring personnel with both the required expertise in the technologies utilized in the industry and experience in their application offshore. This difficulty becomes particularly acute when the hiring process is constrained by government compensation limits.6 Therefore, the committee considered the need for BSEE to utilize an outside resource, such as OESI, to assist in implementing BAST successfully, and it supports BSEE’s movement in that direction (see Chapter 3).

After the committee began its work, BSEE indicated that OESI would be the primary vehicle for improving BAST implementation.7 The committee subsequently focused its efforts on assessing the current challenges in implementing BAST and on identifying alternative approaches that may be utilized by BSEE, with the assistance of OESI, in achieving the statutorily required objectives. The committee also assessed the implications for OESI’s structure and necessary capabilities.

To support the deliberations and guide the development of its recommendations, the committee made certain interpretations of the wording in Section 21(b) of OCSLA (see Preface) to ensure that the intent of Congress was met, notwithstanding the material changes in the nature of offshore operations since


3 The Deepwater Horizon was similar to the Deepwater Nautilus. Accessed September 25, 2013.

4 Accessed September 25, 2013.

5 Accessed September 25, 2013.

6 Accessed September 25, 2013.

7Joseph Levine, BSEE, briefing to the committee, March 11, 2013.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement