WASHINGTON — Drilling regulators from a dozen countries on Thursday agreed to take steps toward uniform standards for oil and gas exploration in oceans around the world.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested the idea at the end of a daylong summit on offshore drilling safety that focused on the lessons learned from last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster, including the need for better ways to rein in runaway underwater wells.
Representatives from the European Union, the United States and 11 other countries, including the Russian Federation, Brazil and Australia, agreed to form a working group to develop global offshore drilling standards. The group will meet again in Oslo in 2012, on the second anniversary of the gulf spill.
"The working group can help us figure what the best organization is (and) can help us develop global protocols for oil and gas development," Salazar said.
The regulatory system — a patchwork of standards that vary from ocean to ocean and country to country — doesn't recognize the reality that the same companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico are also drilling off the coast of Brazil, Angola and Norway, Salazar said.
"I feel confident in what we are doing with the Gulf of Mexico, but the oil and gas industry is a global industry," Salazar said.
"When we get to the second anniversary of the Macondo spill, hopefully we will be able to be working on global standards that go beyond just our own back yard," Salazar said.
One notable absence in the planned collaboration and at Thursday's summit is Cuba, which expects five wells to be drilled off its coast in the next two years. Salazar said the United States was concerned about the potential drilling 60 miles off the coast of Florida, within the ocean's loop current that travels up the U.S. East Coast.