Friday, May 21, 2010

BP oil spill prompts Canada to toughen drill rules

By QMI Agency

The board that regulates oil drilling off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is beefing up oversight of Canada's deepest offshore oil well.

Earlier this month, Chevron Canada started drilling in the Orphan Basin, which is located about 430 km northeast of St. John's.

The oil well, the Lona O-5, is located a record-setting 2.5 km beneath the surface of the water - or 1 km deeper than the BP well that's been gushing about 800,000 litres of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20, when an oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) has decided to take extra steps to ensure a similar catastrophe doesn't occur in the Orphan Basin.

"It is prudent practice for a regulator to conduct an internal review following an incident like the one in the Gulf of Mexico to determine if more can be done from an oversight perspective to address concerns about the risks of offshore drilling," said Sean Kelly, manager of public relations for C-NLOPB, in a statement.

Chevron, which has agreed to abide by the new regulations, must submit daily reports to an oversight board comprised of C-NLOPB's chief safety officer, chief conservation officer, members of its board's management team and other senior staff members.

They'll also be expected to meet with the board every two weeks to discuss matters of concern.

Chevron will have to file field reports to update the C-NLOPB on the status of the company's safety systems, such as the blowout preventer stack.

Inspections of the oil rig will be stepped up from once every three to four months to once every three to four weeks.

Before penetrating any targets, Chevron must prove that "all personnel and equipment for spill response identified in its oil spill contingency plan are available for rapid deployment."

The C-NLOPB stressed that Chevron has already passed two levels of environmental assessments, as required by policy.

The Gulf of Mexico spill is harming a wide variety of sea life, including Atlantic bluefin tuna, a staple of P.E.I.'s fishery.

According to Oceania, an international conservationist organization, the effects of the spill will be visible for decades.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael has been pushing Premier Danny Williams to create an independent agency, other than C-NLOPB, to monitor safety on the oil rigs.

Meanwhile, the Inuvialuit in Northern Canada have been lobbying to keep oil companies out of Canada's Arctic until companies can guarantee environmental protections.

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