By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

When it comes to offshore safety at oil and gas sites, forming partnerships and learning from the experience of others can prove to be beneficial.

So it is good to hear that the United States and Mexico are coming together again—this time in an effort to strengthen industrial safety and environmental protection.

Officials from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Mexico’s newly formed National Agency for Industrial Safety and Environmental Protection of the Hydrocarbons Sector (ASEA) signed a letter of intent Oct. 20 to “to strengthen cooperation, coordination and information sharing related to the development, oversight, and enforcement of safety and environmental regulations for development of offshore hydrocarbon resources,” BSEE said in a news release.

The U.S. agency said the two may coordinate by:

  • Periodically exchanging information and experiences;
  • Organizing bilateral events and delegation visits;
  • Participating as observers in activities related to their respective authorities;
  • Conducting joint studies and research; and
  • Training staff.

The two safety and environmental agencies also could work together in other areas deemed mutually beneficially.

“Mexico and the U.S. have a long history of mutually beneficial cooperation on conservation, management and sustainable development of natural resources,” BSEE said in the release. “This continued cooperation between BSEE and ASEA is in keeping with broader bilateral efforts for cooperation in the environmental and hydrocarbons sector between the two countries.”

News of the partnership comes about five months after an explosion at the Pemex-operated Abkatun A Permanente processing platform in the Gulf of Mexico, claiming seven lives and causing production to fall at four nearby fields.

ASEA concluded that a leak in a gas fuel line caused the April 1 explosion. ASEA director Carlos de Regules told Reuters that even though the fuel line was rarely used, micro-organisms and sulfuric acid within the gas accelerated corrosion in the line. This, he said, caused the line to rupture and the escaping gas to ignite.

The agency is working to put measures in place to prevent a repeat of the deadly accident, the news agency reported. Others, including the U.S., could take note of their findings.

Likewise, Mexican regulators could learn from U.S. experiences offshore, particularly stemming from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy by taking note of regulations such as the Workplace Safety Rule, or the safety and environmental management systems (SEMS) rule. The recommended practice became a requirement following the accident. It requires offshore operators to define certain roles and provide documentation related to safety.

But why stop here? Anyone with safety at the forefront of their operations, regulatory and non-regulatory, could find ways to improve by learning and working with others with similar priorities.

Perhaps, Mexico and the U.S. could offer up suggestions on how to lower emissions offshore, cope with workforce issues or bringing Cuba into the mix to extend efforts further.

But tragedy should not be the only impetus for change.

The possibilities for collaboration are endless, and the results could go a long way toward improving and safely growing operations offshore.

Velda Addison can be reached at