By R. Lee Vail

In response to the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Incident, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”), Office of Conservation (“Conservation”) issued a series of emergency rules with effective dates: July 15, 2010(1) , December 9, 2010(2), January 12, 2011(3) and most recently May 12, 2011(4).  . The initial emergency rule created:

“a new Chapter within Statewide Order No. 29-B (LAC 43:XIX.Ch. 2) to provide additional rules concerning the drilling and completion of oil and gas wells at water locations, specifically providing for the following: rig movements and reporting requirements, additional requirements for applications to drill, casing-header requirements, mandatory diverter systems and blowout preventer requirements, oil and gas workover operations, diesel engine safety requirements, and drilling fluid regulations.” See, 36 La. Reg. 1427.

The initial emergency rule also amended Statewide Order No. 29-B-a (LAC 43:XIX. Ch. 11) “to provide for and expand upon rules concerning the use of storm chokes in oil and gas wells at water locations.” Id.

In the emergency rules, Conservation has reviewed and incorporated “all provisions of the MMS [Minerals Management Service] regulations concerning well control issues at water locations” that were not repetitive, duplicative or otherwise inapplicable to the situations encountered in Louisiana waters. See, 37 La. Reg. 1548. In addition to providing Conservation more time promulgate final comprehensive rules, the most recent version of the emergency rules contains a few noteworthy changes from the January 2011 version of the rule. These are:

  • The Oil and Gas Well-Workover Operations section, located at LAC 43:XIX.211, contains specific requirements for blow out preventer components and configuration. Conservation removed a provision (formally located at LAC 43:XIX.213.L) allowing the Commissioner to grant an exemption from specific equipment requirements mandated by that section. The January 2011 version of the rule allowed an exemption from specific equipment requirements where the operator could demonstrate the unavailability of the mandated equipment and that anticipated surface pressures minimize the opportunity for loss of well control.
  • Conservation changed the mandatory industry standard for design and operation of subsurface safety valves (“SSSV”) from “API RP 14B” to “API RP 14H”. See, LAC 43:XIX.1104.E (making the emergency rule consistent with 30 C.F.R. §250.804(a)(5)). 
  • All four versions of the emergency rule require that installed subsurface-controlled SSSV’s be removed and tested every twelve or six months, depending on whether they were installed on a landing nipple or not. However, the most recent emergency rule also included a requirement that all SSSVs be inspected for leakage every month to six weeks. See, LAC 43:XIX.1104.E.2.a.

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(1)  36 Louisiana Register 1427, July 20, 2010, available at: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/osr/reg/1007/1007.pdf
(last visited June 27, 2011).

(2)  36 Louisiana Register 2823, Dec. 20, 2010, available at: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/osr/reg/1012/1012.pdf
(last visited June 27, 2011).

(3)  37 Louisiana Register 460, Feb. 20, 2011, available at: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/osr/reg/1102/1102.pdf
(last visited June 27, 2011).
 

(4)  37 Louisiana Register 1547, June 20, 2011, available at: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/osr/reg/1106/1106.pdf (last visited June 27, 2011).