Immediately after the Deepwater Horizon accident, the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) asked DNV to research and prepare a report comparing the regulations in the US and Norway.
“The Deepwater Horizon accident was very serious. The Norwegian oil industry is not in a position to investigate the incident, but the OLF asked DNV to examine the regulations in the two countries so that interested parties could better understand the differences between the two regulatory regimes and, not least, consider any changes to the Norwegian regulations,” commented Director General Gro Brækken in the Norwegian Oil Industry Association.
The US and Norwegian regulations are fundamentally different in structure. In the US, regulations are prescriptive – i.e. they specify the means and the minimum steps or actions required for compliance. In Norway, the regulations are mainly performance-based, which allows for different, and optimal, approaches to achieve safety targets. Additionally, Norway has included systematic risk management practices in its regulations.
In practice, prescriptive regulations set the lowest acceptable safety level and the regulatory agencies may feel the greatest sense of responsibility to confirm compliance. On the other hand, performance based regulations in Norway may allow for continuous development, adoption of new technology and global best practices, and this responsibility is placed on the owner or operator. This may encourage quality control in all operations.
Further research has led DNV to recommend that the US make a number of changes to their existing safety regime in the Gulf of Mexico, which amongst other things recommends that they switch to a performance-based safety regime supplemented by prescriptive regulation. DNV believes that an offshore safety regime based on a performance-based regulation requiring safety cases including risk assessments supplemented by required or recommended specific prescriptive regulation for selected areas is the most effective regime model.