US said poised to resume deepwater drilling in Gulf

28 February 2011 20:58  [Source: ICIS news]

Obama poised to re-open US GulfWASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Obama administration is expected to announce this week - perhaps as early as later today - that it was prepared to resume issuing permits for some deepwater drilling in US waters of the Gulf of Mexico, energy sector sources said on Monday.

The White House and the US Department of the Interior (DOI) halted permits for new deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf in the wake of the April 2010 BP drilling rig explosion and fire that killed 11 workers and triggered the nation’s worst ocean oil spill.

However, that deepwater drilling ban soon may end, sources said.

Senior Interior Department official Michael Bromwich was scheduled to hold a press conference late on Monday afternoon amid speculation that he would announce the first new deepwater drilling permit since the BP accident.

Frank Maisano, an energy sector specialist with the Washington, DC, law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, said that the Interior Department was likely to issue a new deepwater drilling permit by Tuesday this week in advance of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s testimony on Wednesday before Senate Energy Committee.

Maisano said the White House was likely to authorise Salazar to renew deepwater permitting before the Wednesday hearing “so that Salazar won’t have to go to the Hill on Wednesday without a bird in hand, as a hostile Congress lies in wait”.

Many in Congress, including Democrats as well as most Republicans, have been pressing Salazar and President Barack Obama to move forward quickly with new Gulf waters drilling permits, citing continuing oil price increases worldwide and related bumps in US gasoline prices at the pump.

Maisano noted too that Salazar was in Houston, Texas, last Friday for a meeting with oil industry executives to assess the spill containment systems that have been developed since the BP accident.

Salazar had said earlier that development of an effective and fail-safe blow-out preventer and related containment equipment would have to be developed before his department would re-authorise deepwater drilling in the Gulf.

It was speculated on Monday that Salazar may have obtained in Houston adequate assurances from the oil industry that the newly developed equipment could prevent or contain a deep-sea blowout like that of April last year.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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