several billion dollars per year on drilling and development activities (see Chapter 1), technology moves ahead constantly, and OESI will be important in enabling BSEE and the regulatory environment to keep up.
However, to be effective, the scale of OESI will need to be much greater than that described in the initial announcement. OESI will need to be located where it can readily access experienced staff and interact with industry. BSEE should consider OESI structures that facilitate the retention of knowledge and experience (Recommendation 4-7).
The committee believes that the funding level proposed in the BSEE announcement is not adequate for achieving these ends. As discussed earlier in this chapter, various structures can be used in building OESI. However, examination of similar efforts in technology identification and assessment undertaken in the past indicates that the funding commitment to OESI will need to be consistently in the range of several million dollars per year to attract and grow the skills and competencies required, to monitor and keep pace with industry technology developments, and to shape and support the research programs to assess and mature beneficial technologies.
The committee is also concerned that OESI, as initially described, does not allow for the development of the institutional knowledge and memory that will be required to steer and promote the necessary technology development for BAST. A technical core within OESI that follows industry developments over many years and is able to recognize and respond to trends and developments in a timely manner will be needed. The regular recompeting of OESI could make this difficult, particularly at the budgetary level announced, because growth and retention of a stable core of technical and managerial expertise that will be necessary over the decades-long time scales that are common in the offshore industry will not be possible. Complementary to the establishment of OESI, BSEE would benefit from having its own in-house highly reputable chief engineer or chief scientist with technical expertise in offshore drilling and exploration.
In sum, the committee believes that for the effective implementation of BAST, the technical expertise and resources in BSEE and OESI need to evolve along the lines indicated by the body of recommendations in this report.