The US Department of Interior (DOI) has unveiled final regulations on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to increase safety and environmental standards in the region.


The new regulations primarily focus on OCS exploratory drilling operations from floating vessels within the US Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

It also ensures the oil companies to make proper internal controls and planning for oil spill prevention, containment and responses and submit it to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) before filing an exploration plan.

DOI Land and Minerals Management assistant secretary Janice Schneider said that the regulations will support the administration’s balanced approach to any oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.

Schneider added: "The rules help ensure that any exploratory drilling operations in this highly challenging environment will be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, while protecting the marine, coastal, and human environments, and Alaska Natives’ cultural traditions and access to subsistence resources."

The latest regulations, which complements the previously announced Final Well Control Rule unveiled in April this year, will ensure that operators take proper steps to plan through all phases of OCS exploration in the Arctic.

BOEM director Abigail Ross Hopper said: "The unique Arctic environment raises substantial operational challenges.

"These new regulations are carefully tailored to ensure that any future exploration activities will be conducted in a way that respects and protects this incredible ecosystem and the Alaska Native subsistence activities that depend on its preservation."

Under the regulations, the oil and gas companies are also required to have access to source control and containment equipment, such as capping stacks and containment domes, at the time of drilling below or working below the surface casing.

Image: The Noble Discoverer drillship in the Chukchi Sea. Photo: courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell.