* Chevron must test blowout preventer, other equipment
* Audits and drill ship inspections to be more frequent
* Must get clearance before reaching target at Nfld well
(Adds detail and comment)
By Scott Haggett
CALGARY, Alberta, May 20 A Canadian regulator
tightened offshore drilling rules on Thursday in response to
the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, forcing new
restrictions on Chevron Corp's (CVX.N) operations off
Chevron will have to provide test results for the blowout
preventer and its activation systems at the Lona O-55
exploratory well off the eastern Canadian province, the
regulator said. It was the blowout preventer for the BP Plc
(BP.L) well in the Gulf that failed, leading to the spill.
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum
Board said it was making the new requirements in light of the
situation unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico and heightened public
concern over drilling operations currently under way off the
province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Along with other measures, Chevron's drill ship will face
more frequent audits and inspections and regulators will ensure
that safety systems are functioning before the drilling reaches
its planned target.
Chevron said it will comply with the new regulations for
the well, being drilled in water 2,600 meters deep in the
Orphan Basin, about 430 kilometers (267 miles) northeast of St.
"We are cooperating fully ... and will facilitate the
board's planned oversight measures for Orphan Basin drilling
operations," Leif Sollid, a spokesman for Chevron, said. "The
focus of everyone involved is to ensure safe and incident free
The BP well is under 1,500 meters of water 68 kilometers
(42 miles) offshore.
Canadian governments and regulators are reassessing the
country's preparedness for an offshore disaster following the
April 20 explosion of Transocean Ltd's (RIG.N) Deepwater
Horizon drilling rig.
The explosion killed 11 workers and triggered what could
prove to be the worst U.S. oil spill if the crude keeps spewing
unchecked into the Gulf.
The Chevron well is the only offshore drilling currently
underway in Canadian waters. However both BP and Exxon Mobil
Corp (XOM.N) have longer term plans to explore for petroleum in
the Beaufort Sea, north of the Arctic Circle.
The National Energy Board, Canada's federal oil and gas
regulator, launched a review of Arctic safety and environmental
drilling requirements last week, canceling planned hearings on
a request from BP and Exxon reexamine a requirement that Arctic
drillers would need to drill a relief well in the same season
an exploratory well was completed.
(Editing by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Frank McGurty)