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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
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7

Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf

INTRODUCTION

In the development of this study and report, the focus has been on offshore oil and gas, the offshore oil and gas industry, and the characterization of systemic risk in offshore oil and gas operations. While the risks inherent in offshore oil and gas operations are not unique to the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), Gulf operations represent about 97 percent1 of produced oil and gas volumes from the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and even higher fractions of numbers of production facilities and hours worked offshore. It is therefore natural that the scope and nature of GoM oil and gas operations was the driving force behind the development of our model for characterizing and assessing systemic risk in the offshore oil and gas industry.

While developed with GoM oil and gas operations in mind, the model can be applied equally well to operations in other areas, such as the U.S. West Coast and Alaska, and the special risks that exist in those operating environments, such as earthquakes in both areas and extreme cold in Alaska, where environmental factors affect how risks are managed but do not alter the basic structure of systemic risk. The same could be said to be true for unique environmental concerns in the GoM, such as hurricanes. In all cases, systemic risk can be split into the People and Systems sides, as discussed in Chapter 4, and then into the corresponding 15 risk elements.

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1 See Oil and Gas—Gulf of Mexico, https://www.boem.gov/regions/gulf-mexico-ocs-region/oil-and-gas-gulf-mexico.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

The purpose of this chapter is to look into the future and consider how evolving offshore energy systems might affect the assessment of systemic risk over the coming decades. The big questions to be considered include the medium- and long-term future of the offshore oil and gas industry, the potential development of new energy systems within the OCS, and evolving operations, operating models, and operator profiles.

The committee does not intend to predict the future but feels confident in stating that the impact of the energy transition and associated changes in operations and operating models are likely to have a significant impact on the characterization and assessment of systemic risk in offshore energy operations. In this chapter, the committee attempts to describe the broad scope of potential changes offshore and consider what their potential impact could be on the assessment of systemic risk.

THE ENERGY TRANSITION AND RISK MANAGEMENT

There is no doubt that the U.S. and global energy systems are changing. The energy transition is a much discussed and analyzed reality, and central to this are the pace and ultimate magnitude of the transition. Based on current activities and trends, it is clear that over the next decade, and beyond, there will be significant changes in the offshore environment. Beyond discussions, initial planning, regulatory activity, and studies, some projects are advancing and occurring in the areas of carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen projects and infrastructure, additional electrification of offshore installations, and electricity generation utilizing offshore wind. Note, however, that even with very aggressive models for transforming our current energy systems, offshore oil and natural gas will continue to be a significant source of primary energy in the decades to come.2

The scale and speed of growth in low-carbon projects, coupled with the increasing diversity of the offshore energy sector, will lead to a corresponding change in the hazards and could increase health, safety, and environmental risks if not well managed and addressed by all stakeholders in a collaborative, cooperative, and strategic manner. New and increased hazards will result from the significantly greater scale and diversity of activities in the same geographic space that is already crowded with structures, operating personnel transportation, fishing, recreation, and shipping. The potential for catastrophic accidents resulting from failures in barrier management or people systems associated with new activities could result, for example, in uncontrolled releases from surface or subsurface storage of hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

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2 See https://www.eia.gov/analysis.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

As previously discussed, the practice of process safety management and regulating systemic risk in high-hazard industries and endeavors is well documented. Systemic risk management is achieved by effectively identifying all hazards and creating and managing the barriers to prevent these hazards from escalating to an incident. This is the essence of safety and environmental management systems (SEMS), process safety, and other safety management systems (SMSs). All of these systems have the same goal of minimizing the risks in operations, and they have similar process elements for achieving this goal. Thus, the effective adoption and active and continual use of a SMS for all types of offshore energy must be ensured and achieved. This includes continual learning and improvement as well as auditing and other oversight.

Importantly, SMS is not changed by the energy type and activities. It is the hazards that change. SEMS are the SMSs required by regulation in the U.S. OCS and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) are using this for offshore wind and likely will for any other offshore energy- or energy transition–related activities (see, e.g., Sharples, 2010; TRB, 2013). Fortunately, the energy transition does not require a new systemic risk management process or tool.

As noted, the energy transition will create new hazards that will need to be identified and addressed with systemic risk management. This should happen as part of an effective implementation of SMSs by the operating companies and contractors. Some potential and real hazards are a significant enough change that they should be highlighted to ensure full consideration as SMSs evolve to meet the needs of the transition. Additionally, many of these “new” hazards will need to be managed collaboratively, cooperatively, and across diverse energy transition industries and operators, all operating in the same U.S. offshore space.

Public demand is shifting and there is increasing pressure for industry and government spending to be directed to renewables. As an example from outside of the United States, the United Kingdom recently signed a £16 billion North Sea Transition Deal, the first for any G7 country, to shift its oil industry toward low-carbon energy. It is clear that the next decade is going to see massive change in the U.S. offshore environment, including the possible rollout of CCS and hydrogen projects and electrification of offshore installations using offshore wind for facility power.

While SMSs are not necessarily changed by the energy type and activities, how one evaluates systemic risk in this new environment could change. Given the great uncertainties in the scale and nature of future offshore activities, as well as the processes and mechanisms that might be adopted for regulatory oversight, the committee chose not to project its model of

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

systems, risk controls, and risk elements into the future, but rather to assess possible hazards in this new environment under broad headings.

Grouped by different perspectives on the energy transition, the following are some of the new and emerging hazards that definitely should be considered and managed.

Technology

Technology is always evolving, and companies are constantly employing new technologies that make operations more efficient. Technology can also be valuable in managing and minimizing risks, but at the same time, new technologies may present previously unknown or unrecognized hazards. Hazard identification processes might need to be adapted to minimize the risk of this occurring. All operators will be required to develop, deploy, operate, and maintain technologies and processes to foresee hazards, recognize risks, and implement appropriate management and control measures.

The rapid pace of technology change and innovation will cascade through all aspects of offshore energy systems and will need to be considered in all of the other categories discussed below.

Companies and Culture

New companies and contractors operating in the offshore as a result of the energy transition may lack awareness of the hazards presented by the offshore environment and may not be familiar with the existing SEMS and other SMS practices and processes currently employed. They may face difficulties in quickly establishing good systemic risk management practices that need to be used offshore. Processes must be in place to ensure that new entrants into the offshore energy industry are provided with suitable information, instruction, training, procedures, good practices, and supervision to ensure that they identify and manage hazards and work safely.

Related to evolving energy systems (discussed below), new entrants in offshore energy could come from other business sectors, such as utilities operating offshore wind facilities or new companies engaged in construction and transportation, and they will bring to this space their own culture and operating practices, which may or may not be suitable for the offshore environment. How new players are integrated into this space (including actions by regulatory agencies) could have a major impact on the recognition of hazards and management of risks.

There are real risks presented by inexperience. In the United Kingdom, a principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive addressed a letter to trade bodies representing the offshore renewable energy industry expressing his concern “that in some sectors of the wind energy industry, improvements in health and safety performance has at best stalled if not reversed.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

In 2020, there have been a number of serious incidents both in the UK and elsewhere which could indicate that any reversal may continue.” He went on to emphasize that it is essential that arrangements are in place to ensure that new entrants into the industry are provided with suitable information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure that they work safely.3 This is important experience from the North Sea that should influence how hazards and risk are managed in the U.S. OCS.

Energy Systems

New energy systems will not only bring new technologies and companies into the offshore environment but will also bring in new infrastructure which will present novel hazards offshore. Installations such as fixed-bottom or floating wind turbines and high-voltage power management and transportation installations do not currently exist in areas of the U.S. OCS that have been developed for oil and gas. This presents a variety of new challenges, with accompanying hazards as to how these systems are developed and integrated with existing energy systems in the same geographic area.

Of particular concern is how the footprint of new energy systems may conflict with that of oil and gas, which is discussed below in the section on infrastructure.

New energy systems will include the special reuse case that will require significant analysis and consideration relative to hazards and hazard management of reusing and modifying existing offshore infrastructure. This includes the reuse of wells and reservoirs for hydrogen (H2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and other types of storage and in particular the long-term storage requirements of CCS. The long-term integrity of the wells and reservoirs must be ensured to manage potential hazards, which is briefly addressed below under infrastructure.

An additional concern with new energy systems is that they will likely result in the growth (perhaps very rapid) of offshore activities in new provinces where the regulators are not well resourced (such as the Arctic) or where both offshore experience and shore-based support are minimal (such as the U.S. East and West coasts). These changes will put additional pressures on safety management systems.

Activities and Activity Levels

The energy transition could result in an expansion of offshore activity and therefore significantly increase the level and breadth of offshore operations. This will include vessel and other marine activity in construction,

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3 See https://prospect.org.uk/news/hse-highlights-reversal-in-health-and-safety-across-wind-sector.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

installation, operation, logistics, and staff movement. This increased activity will often be occurring in areas that already have high fishing, shipping, oil and gas, and other offshore use activities. And additionally, the energy transition could increase offshore marine activity not directly related to energy generation but related to CCS, liquefied natural gas, CO2, and H2 transportation and storage, and similar activities including offshore loading and unloading facilities. The net result is that an already busy offshore space might become operationally quite congested. There may also be military, rocket launching, and other non-energy activities in addition to all of the conventional energy and energy transition activities in the same areas. Historically, this issue has been managed by activity exclusion zones, which may be an increasingly difficult solution. New processes, procedures, and resources could be needed to manage this increased transport and other activity and effectively manage the risks. New coordination mechanisms may also be needed going forward, which can build on how the expansion of oil and gas production, including floating storage in the GoM, has been handled and implemented. The existing incident command structure for responding to spills has also been shown to be effective and may serve as a model for operational coordination.

Infrastructure

Existing infrastructure operated by the oil and gas industry will likely continue along the trends established over the last decade. This will depend on the extent of existing structure reuse and repurposing. The current trend includes the large number of abandonments of older shallow-water platforms, the installation of more modern, large, and complex deepwater platforms, and a growing number of deep high-pressure, high-temperature wells. In addition, the transfer of ownership and operation of older, technically and operationally complex facilities in deepwater is taking place. Early-generation deepwater platforms are being sold by the large multinational integrated companies and large independents that designed and constructed them to smaller independent operators, most of whom have extensive experience in shallow-water operations but limited deepwater technical and operational experience and resources. Unlike small, shallow-water platforms, these early-generation deepwater facilities may still be operating at sufficient scale to present the risk of catastrophic failure. All of these trends may present new and evolving hazards whose systemic risk must be managed.

In response to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns, oil companies are starting to look at electrification of more of the offshore facilities, including powering them from both local offshore and shore-based

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

generation. This is instead of the current practice of local electricity generation at each facility via fossil fuels produced at the site.

In addition, the energy transition is already looking at the potential reuse of existing oil and gas infrastructure to support the transition. There must be enhanced tools and processes to ensure that reuse systemically manages all risks and identifies all hazards that might result from this reuse and requalification of older facilities. In addition to platforms and wells, reuse considerations also include existing pipeline infrastructure to transport CO2 for sequestration and H2 for fuel. As an example, H2 could be seawater derived using wind-generated electricity and the H2 transported to shore through existing oil and gas pipelines. The potential hazards of the reuse of these pipelines for the transport of different materials might require new methods and new systemic risk management practices.

Of particular concern is the potential reuse of wells and reservoirs for H2 and other types of storage as well as the use of these for CCS. This reuse will present new hazards and management challenges for operators and regulators. The long-term integrity of the wells and reservoirs must be ensured to manage a potential significant hazard of leakage or uncontrolled large releases. Ensuring this integrity includes consideration of the standards and materials used in the well construction and cementing and the maintenance and monitoring of the well over its oil and gas service life. In particular, CCS could have very-long-term integrity requirements to manage these hazards. Both the integrity requirements and how integrity will be managed and maintained going forward will require potentially new techniques and technologies to successfully manage risks.

An additional hazard to be considered is the availability of adequate resources including funding to manage the totality of the energy transition safely and successfully. Existing offshore infrastructure will need adequate funding for safe removal or in situ abandonment, for maintaining the existing infrastructure to prepare for reuse in the transition, and funding to ensure the integrity of the facilities and wells if reused. If this is not done well and strategically managed, it could create a variety of new hazards. It must be clear how this systemic risk will be managed and funded through the transition as well as the responsibilities of the parties involved.

As new infrastructure is built and installed in the GoM, there will be issues in managing the physical footprints, given possible overlap and operational interference. It will be reasonable for the different players to seek efficiencies in combined operations, but this could lead to unexpected hazards associated with interactions between elements of these complex systems. Conversely, opting for parallel operations to reduce the risk of these interactions could have the effect of increasing overall risk through the increased activity levels and greater exposure for a larger number of workers.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

A growing concern for new and installed infrastructure is the risk posed by cybersecurity issues. There are potential hazards for both new and existing infrastructure, although the extensive legacy infrastructure (including wells, platforms, and pipelines) installed over the last several decades could pose special hazards as it becomes coupled with new technologies and modern operating procedures such as remote operations.

Regulatory Environment

The regulators will need to work together and develop processes for regulation and oversight to quickly adapt to and support new technologies, new operations, and new players while delivering effective systemic risk management. This will need to be done as multiple types of new companies become involved that are unfamiliar with the offshore environment. It will be essential that each regulator collaborates with both experts and with other regulators to ensure that risk management regulations in this emerging area of energy transition and the new participants are both effective and supportive from the start. Regulators will need to take a proactive approach to achieve the regulatory goals and remain at the forefront of developments and changes. This sense of proactivity will be an essential part of helping to establish the key hazards and risks.

The U.S. industry and regulators might benefit from considering the learning and experiences of other oil-producing regions such as the North Sea where the energy transition is farther advanced and wind energy systems and carbon capture have been integrated with traditional energy operations for some years. There may also be the opportunity to learn from major transitions in other industries.

A variety of trade organizations that would be new to offshore operations could be potential partners for the regulators in developing new offshore energy industry standards to properly manage risk.

People

The potential high pace of innovation, with potentially greatly expanded design, construction, installation, and operational activities and types may result in sectoral competition for qualified staff, leading to potential skill shortages. Like other changes associated with an evolving energy landscape, this will complicate the management of systemic risk.

Traditional competencies associated with the oil and gas industry will still be required for safe operations, but the potential new energy systems and potentially more complex operations will add to this list and put greater pressure across the energy industries (old and new) for proper training and competence assurance.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

CONCLUSION

Conclusion 7-1: The oil and gas industry and offshore regulators have a long track record of managing systemic risk well in most cases. SMS systems including SEMS and process safety are proven methods of identifying hazards, creating barriers to escalation, and systemically managing risk—if done well and effectively and as part of a continuous process of learning and improvement including sharing and collaboration. The energy transition and new offshore energy systems as well as other new activities in the offshore will not need new processes and tools to systemically manage risk. However, success depends on effective and continuous implementation and use of existing processes including monitoring, learning, and improving. The key challenges for operators and regulators going forward in the transition is to (a) have a solid unified transition strategy that creates and sustains collaboration and cooperation among the much-expanded mix of companies and contractors and new technologies that are creating this transition in the common U.S. offshore space and (b) includes regular assessment of progress because change is not fully predictable and could be rapid.

It will be crucial for duty holders to (a) ensure that the risks of health and safety are not overlooked under the pressures of a rapid transition and the pursuit of green objectives and (b) recognize that SMSs will need to evolve for many decades to come as offshore activities evolve.

REFERENCES

Sharples, M. 2010. TAP-633-Wind Farm/Turbine Accidents and the Applicability to Risks to Personnel and Property on the OCS, and Design Standards to Ensure Structural Safety/Reliability/Survivability of Offshore Wind Farms on the OCS. Minerals Management Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. https://www.bsee.gov/research-record/tap-633-wind-farmturbine-accidents-and-applicability-risks-personnel-and-property.

TRB (Transportation Research Board). 2013. Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms—Special Report 310. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC. https://doi.org/10.17226/18327.

Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×

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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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Suggested Citation:"7 Energy Transition and Systemic Risk Management in the Outer Continental Shelf." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Advancing Understanding of Offshore Oil and Gas Systemic Risk in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Current State and Safety Reforms Since the Macondo Well–Deepwater Horizon Blowout. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26873.
×
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