The BSEE's drills are meant to test operators for effectiveness.

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Oil and gas operators need to be wary of possible checks that could put them on the spot. We've spoken before about how the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has grown more proactive in promoting safe practices. One company, Genesis Crude Oil, L.P., got a taste of this earlier this month, according to a press release from the Bureau.

The BSEE arrived to perform a Government Initiated Unannounced Exercise, testing the company's response to a mock oil spill. Observers from not just the BSEE, but from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Coast Guard and Texas General Land Office were present as well. The exercise was meant to gauge the company's technology as well as its operator's emergency plans.

Before this action, the BSEE conducted two other similar drills in 2016 alone, the statement said. One June 7, days before the Genesis test, the Bureau conducted a similar simulation with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company.

"Offshore businesses have more reason to prioritize offshore safety and government compliance."

According to an earlier BSEE press release, the Oil Spill Preparedness Division also held an unannounced drill with Black Elk Energy Offshore on November 30, 2015. It was the 15th such exercise that year, the BSEE reported.

What all of these cases show is the government's aggressive approach to surprise evaluations. As these exercises continue, businesses have more reason to prioritize offshore safety and government compliance.

The 2016 National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program guidelines called unannounced exercises "one of the cornerstones of oil spill exercise requirements." The maximum number of these allowed per year differs: Generally, the BSEE cannot perform one at the same facility more than once within a 36-month span. However, there are exceptions when follow-up drills are needed.

Marine contractors of all kinds may need new insurance coverage to keep up with evolving standards. If so, it might be better to work with an experienced carrier that knows industry realities well.

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