Region: Gulf of Mexico
Content Types: Report
Date: July, 2023

Adobe Stock BOEM decommissioning GOM

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has proposed changes to modernise financial assurance requirements for the offshore oil and gas industry, in order to better protect American taxpayers from incurring the costs associated with the oil and gas industry’s responsibility to decommission offshore wells and infrastructure.

BOEM Director, Liz Klein, commented, “These proposed updates to our financial assurance regulations will help ensure that energy companies that are operating in publicly-owned federal waters are able to fulfill their clean-up and decommissioning responsibilities, without taxpayers having to step in to foot the bill. The commonsense updates that we are proposing would modernise evaluation and financial criteria so that we are better protecting taxpayers from the decommissioning costs associated with aging oil and gas infrastructure on the Outer Continental Shelf.”

Together with reforms to royalty rates, rental rates, onshore bonding requirements, and leasing practices, the changes being announced today continue to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s federal oil and gas reform agenda, which was outlined in a report that the Department of the Interior developed in response to Executive Order 14008.

The proposed rule would establish two metrics by which BOEM would assess the risk any company poses for the American taxpayer.

To accurately and consistently predict financial distress, BOEM would use credit ratings from a nationally recognized statistical rating organisation, or a proxy credit rating generated through a statistical model. BOEM would require companies without an investment-grade credit rating to provide additional financial assurance. BOEM is seeking public feedback on whether it should rely on credit ratings to make these determinations and what credit rating threshold would best protect taxpayer interests without imposing undue burdens on industry.

Second, BOEM would consider the current value of the proved oil and gas resources on the lease itself when determining the overall financial risk of decommissioning, given that any lease with significant reserves still available would likely be acquired by another operator that would then assume the liabilities in the event of bankruptcy.

The proposed regulatory changes would provide additional clarity and reinforce that current grant holders and lessees bear the cost of ensuring compliance with lease obligations, rather than relying on prior owners to cover those costs.

BOEM would use decommissioning estimates based on industry reported data collected by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) at a level that would adequately cover estimated decommissioning costs without being overly burdensome. This proposed rule would allow current lessees and grant holders to request phased-in payments over three years for new financial assurance amounts.

The proposed changes were published in the Federal Register on 29 June, which will open a 60-day public comment period.