The federal government has approved the first deep-water drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since last year’s massive oil spill. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued a permit to Noble Energy Inc. to continue work on a well about 70 miles southeast of Venice, La. Noble started drilling the well four days before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. Drilling activity was suspended on June 12 under a moratorium the U.S. placed on exploration in waters deeper than 500 feet.
No new deep-water permits had been issued since the moratorium was lifted in October. Regulators have been under pressure from the oil industry and some lawmakers to get drilling projects in the Gulf started again while ensuring that new safeguards were in place. Director Michael Bromwich said that regulators approved the permit after the company demonstrated it is capable of containing a well blowout. Noble contracted with the Helix Well Containment Group to use its emergency capping stack to stop the flow of oil in case it loses control of a well.
As was previously reported, a consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp. had offered another emergency containment solution. It was stated by Director Bromwich that “further deep-water permits will most likely be approved in the near future” based on the same process that led to the approval of this permit. The U.S. has approved 37 other drilling permits, all of them in shallow water, since the moratorium was lifted.
Source: Associated Press
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