WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - The United States is planning to impose a major new regulation on offshore oil and gas drilling to try to prevent the kind of explosions that caused the catastrophic BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the New York Times reported on Friday, citing Obama administration officials.
The Interior Department could make the announcement as early as Monday, the paper said. It is timed to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the BP disaster, which killed 11 men and sent millions of barrels of oil spewing into the gulf.
The rule is expected to tighten safety requirements on blowout preventers, devices that are the last line of protection to stop explosions in undersea oil and gas wells, the Times reported.
The White House did not immediatley respond to a request for comment.
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 was caused in part when the buckling of a section of drill pipe led to the malfunction of a supposedly fail-safe blowout preventer on a BP well, the paper said.
The regulation comes as the Obama administration is taking steps to open up vast new areas of federal waters off the southeast Atlantic Coast to drilling, a decision that has infuriated environmentalists, the Times reported.
It will be the third and biggest new drilling-equipment regulation put forth by the Obama administration in response to the disaster, the Times said. In 2010, the Interior Department announced new regulations on drilling well casings, and in 2012, it announced new regulations on the cementing of wells. (Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)