Salazar: Producers are working in gulf under new regulations

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29 -- Producers are successfully implementing new, tougher drilling standards and resuming activity in the Gulf of Mexico, US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar said on July 28 after visiting three rigs in the gulf.

“Today, we saw production activities and shallow-water drilling operations that are implementing the new standards as they continue their operations,” Salazar said, adding, “We also continued to gather important information about the steps industry is taking to address shortcomings in safety, blowout prevention, and spill response capabilities in deep waters, so that those deepwater operations can safely resume.”

Salazar initially imposed a 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling at the end of May after submitting a 30-day report to US President Barack Obama on the Apr. 20 Macondo well blowout, rig explosion, and resulting oil spill. New safety regulations covering other offshore oil and gas activities on federal tracts were issued in a June 8 notice to lessees, and operators were required to demonstrate compliance before receiving new permits.

After a federal district judge in New Orleans threw out Salazar’s first moratorium on June 22, the secretary imposed another ban on July 12, this time based on drilling configurations and technologies instead of water depths.

US Deputy Interior Sec. David J. Hayes; Michael R. Bromwich, director of the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement; and Lars Herbst, BOE Gulf of Mexico regional director, accompanied the secretary. They visited a platform rig on a deepwater floating production facility with a surface blowout preventer stack, a deepwater semisubmersible drilling rig with a subsea BOP stack, and a jack up rig drilling in shallow water with a surface BOP stack.

DOI said the four officials landed at Murphy Exploration & Production Co.’s Front Runner spar facility on Green Canyon Block 338. The Nabors Industries Inc. MODS 200 platform drilling rig is on this deepwater production facility. The Murphy Oil Corp. division is working on Well A-2 on a plugback and recomplete, an activity allowed under the current deepwater drilling suspension, which runs through Nov. 30.

The group next visited the Noble Danny Adkins on Green Canyon Block 247, where inspections are under way so the Noble Drilling Services Inc. deepwater rig can resume work for Shell Offshore Inc. The DOI officials’ last stop was the Rowan Ralph Coffman jack up on South Timbalier Block 144 on McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC’s Blackbeard East prospect.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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