Government halts five offshore operations

Nov. 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. government said it had ordered five offshore oil energy companies to shut down operations for failing to provide audits of their safety plans.

The audits are a new requirement put into place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil platform disaster in which a lethal explosion resulted in a prolonged and destructive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ordered Breton Energy, EP Energy and XTO Energy-- all based in Texas – and Virgin Offshore USA and Matagorda Island Gas Operations – both based in Louisiana – to cease their offshore operations.

The agency said the impact on U.S. oil production would be "minuscule," as only one of the companies, Matagorda, has been involved in energy production this year.

Most of the work by the companies -- relatively small compared to some of the behemoths in the energy sector -- is in decommissioning offshore facilities, the newspaper said.

"An effective, fully implemented SEMS program is essential to reducing risks across offshore operations," the agency's Director Brian Salerno said in a statement, referring to the audits of the safety and environmental management systems that are known in the industry as SEMS.

The Chronicle said the companies missed a Nov. 15 deadline to have audits submitted to the regulator.

The companies could be hit with a $40,000 per day fine for failing to comply with the SEMS requirements, the newspaper said.

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