U.S. Issues First New Deepwater Drilling Permit Since Spill

Shell Offshore is approved for a new deepwater exploration plan in its Auger field 30 miles offshore of Louisiana.

A deepwater drilling permit for a new project in the Gulf of Mexico was issued on March 30. This is the first permit issued since a moratorium was imposed last year in the wake of the devastating BP oil spill. Shell Offshore received the permit nine days after it received approval for a new deepwater exploration plan in its Auger field some 130 miles offshore of Louisiana. The permit will allow Shell to drill a new well in Garden Banks Block 427 in 2,721 feet water depth.

"Today's permit approval represents a culmination of a broad and comprehensive review process involving an exploration plan, a site-specific environmental assessment, and the application for the drilling permit -- all of which complied with our rigorous safety and environmental standards," Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said.

"The completion of this process further demonstrates that we are proceeding as quickly as our resources allow to properly regulate offshore oil and gas operations in the most safe and environmentally-responsible manner."

Earlier on March 30, President Barack Obama vowed to cut U.S. oil imports by a third in just over a decade in a major speech laying out a blueprint for a secure American energy future.

Six other deepwater drilling permits have been issued since the moratorium was lifted in October, but they were for projects that had previously been approved and were halted until new safety rules could be implemented.

The "rigorous" new standards include "satisfying the requirement to demonstrate the capacity to contain a subsea blowout," the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

See Also

Obama Wants to Cut Oil Imports by One-Third

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