Skip to Main Content

Offshore Oil Companies On Safety Watch List After Failing Federal Inspections

In the aftermath of the tragic BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010, sweeping changes were enacted in order to improve safety across the board in the offshore oil and gas industry.

Specifically, in response to a presidential commission report criticizing the presence of fundamental conflicts of interest between development and safety, the federal agency responsible for regulating offshore production, then known as the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was split into two separate entities:  the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

Unfortunately, according to a bombshell report by WWL-TV out of New Orleans, even with these massive regulatory overhauls and other efforts, 16 oil companies have had their offshore platforms placed on a special safety watch list (provided by after scoring poorly on safety inspections.

According to the station, during initial efforts to contact the BSEE regarding its “Increased Oversight List”, the bureau maintained that the list simply did not exist–despite the fact that one of the documents had already been posted onto the internet. Following months of fighting and a successful appeal utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, the agency finally agreed to release the documents.

The data gathered suggests that some smaller and mid-sized oil and gas outfits are not keeping pace with the larger producers, like BP, Shell and Chevron, when it comes to implementing new procedures and improving overall safety.

BP, Shell and Chevron are all reported to have maintained better-than-average scores on their facilities in recent years.

This Friday, however, in a move that should improve transparency in the industry, all oil and gas companies currently operating are expected to file independent audits of their own safety management systems with the BSEE.

It remains to be seen whether or not small and medium-sized oil and gas producers are going to step up and begin taking safety as seriously as it needs to be taken. Otherwise, there will be no shortage of disasters like the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and the Black Elk platform explosion.