Chevron upbeat about restart of deepwater drilling in gulf

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Feb. 10 -- Industry and federal drilling regulators appear to be nearing the end of the process to enable the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement to restart issuing deepwater drilling permits for the Gulf of Mexico, a Chevron Corp. executive said Feb. 9.

Gary Luquette, president of Chevron North America Exploration & Production, said he believes Chevron is “days away” from complying with all BOEMRE requirements issued since the April 2010 blowout of the deepwater Macondo well off Louisiana. BP PLC operated Macondo.

The main factor delaying the permitting process has been that BOEMRE is waiting for industry to demonstrate its well control and subsea containment capabilities to prevent future oil spills in case of more blown-out deepwater wells. A massive oil spill followed the Macondo blowout.

“We are very close to the end to getting all questions answered and to the point where we are going to get that certainty,” that industry could quickly intervene if needed, Luquette said. During questioning after his speech to a Credit Suisse Energy Summit in Vail, he forecast that BOEMRE could resume issuing permits for deepwater drilling well before yearend.

Chevron is a member of the Marine Well Containment Co., a consortium of oil companies led by ExxonMobil Corp. to develop systems that can be quickly deployed in case of another deepwater well blowout.

In separate comments from Washington, DC, earlier this week, Michael Bromwich, BOEMRE director, told reporters that he met with executives from major oil companies on Feb. 8 to discuss their spill prevention and containment efforts. Bromwich said he expects permitting for deepwater projects to resume before midyear.

“I think they are making progress, and they answered some of the questions we had, and we will continue to work with them,” Bromwich said of the oil companies.

Luquette said the restart of deepwater drilling also will hinge upon BOEMRE’s ability to issue new permits once industry has demonstrated its well control and subsea containment capabilities.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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