US awards first deepwater permit post-Gulf spill

February 28, 2011
The sun sets out over the Gulf of Mexico. The US government has awarded its first permit for deepwater drilling in the Gulf since a moratorium was lifted after the BP oil disaster last year, a senior official said Monday.

The US government has awarded its first permit for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico since a moratorium was lifted after the BP oil disaster last year, a senior official said Monday.

Michael Bromwich, head of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy, said the permit was approved for US firm Noble Energy after a thorough vetting process and marked "a significant milestone" for Gulf operations.

"Noble Energy's application has met the requirements of our new safety regulations and information requirements," Bromwich said in a conference call with reporters.

"This means among other things that Noble Energy has met new requirements to show that it is prepared to deal with a potential blowout and potential for a worst-case discharge scenario."

Bromwich said there were seven applications pending.

"We are moving forward with deepwater drilling," he said, underscoring that all applications would be determined on "a well-by-well basis."

Bromwich was brought in last June to head the Interior's highly criticized former Minerals Management Service in a reorganization aimed at strengthening oversight and policing of offshore and gas development following the BP spill, the worst oil disaster in US history.

A massive explosion on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, opening a leak that released more than 205 million gallons of oil into the , fouling US shorelines, closing rich shrimp and fishing grounds, and scaring off tourists.

Bromwich said Noble Energy demonstrated that it had the capabilities, together with contractor Helix Energy Solutions, to cap and contain a blowout.

Noble's worst-case scenario is a spill of 69,700 barrels a day, he said.

The United States on October 12 lifted a ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf that had been due to expire at the end of November, but set operators tough new safety conditions.

Explore further: Europe should freeze deep water drilling: top official

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1.3 / 5 (12) Feb 28, 2011
The Obama admin must be feeling the heat of higher pump prices, or they would never ever have granted this or any other drilling permit. I'm frankly surprised it went to an American company instead of Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Maybe it's just a one-off to make it look like they're easing the ban.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2011
It's great that they are forcing contingency plans for the wells. It's a strange aspect of human nature that we only make things safer after a disaster.

Like all those winding mountain roads that get barriers put in place only after someone dies.
2.8 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2011
Obama pretends to care about US energy. I'm impressed. Not. We're going to get $4 gasoline, again, and a recession, again. Duh.

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