Safety progress in Gulf of Mexico drilling should lead to more US permits - API

The US oil and natural gas industry has significantly improved offshore safety, according to Erik Milito, group director of upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute (API), in testimony delivered this week to the US Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.

Milito said that safety and offshore energy development in the Gulf can go hand in hand.

"Great strides have been made to enhance the industry’s capability to prevent an incident from happening, to cap and contain a leaking well, and to respond to a spill, and we’re committed to building on this progress," Milito said.

"We’re ready to fully resume operations in the Gulf, Alaska and other areas and put thousands of people back to work."

The Macondo incident was unprecedented, but so too was the industry response, Milito said.

Based on the work of various industry task forces, improvements have been made in prevention, capping and containment, and spill response.

Task force recommendations are driving improvement in standards and practices related to well design and installation, and the industry now has the capability to quickly contain and cap a well in very deep water.

The industry also has initiated projects to further improve oil spill response, he said.

Going forward, Milito said, the industry’s new Center for Offshore Safety, which is expected to be up and running later this year, will help the industry develop and implement "safety and environmental management systems in deepwater operations, drawing on the collective knowledge and experience of the industry and promoting use of the best safety practices."

The center is evidence of the industry’s long-term commitment to safety and continuous improvement in operations, he added. It will operate out of Houston.

"The government needs to issue leases, and approve projects without unreasonable delay," Milito said.

"If permitting moves forward at a reasonable pace for projects in the Gulf, then we can put 190,000 more people to work, safely bring more of America’s vitally needed energy to its consumers, and deliver many billions of dollars in additional revenue to our federal treasury."

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