BOEMRE's fourth deepwater permit is first with MWCC system

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 22 -- The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement approved the fourth deepwater exploration permit under its new regulatory regime, and the first to use the Marine Well Containment Co.’s system. The revised permit is for ExxonMobil Corp.’s Well No. 3 on Keathley Canyon Block 919 in 6,941 ft of water 240 miles off Louisiana.

Well No. 3 is new, BOEMRE said on Mar. 22. ExxonMobil had a rig at the location and an approved drilling permit for a new well when it suspended operations during the drilling moratoriums that followed the Macondo well accident on Apr. 20, 2010, and subsequent massive crude oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

ExxonMobil confirmed it had received a permit for the well, which is also known as Hadrian North, and said it has a newly built, state-of-the-art rig, the Maersk Developer, standing by. “We support BOEMRE’s efforts to restart safe drilling in the gulf so that tens of thousands of Americans can return to work,” a spokesman told OGJ in an e-mail message.

BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich noted that the deepwater drilling permit was the fourth to be approved since the oil and gas industry confirmed that it was capable of containing a deepwater loss of crude oil from a well blowout.

“As we have seen, the rate of deepwater permit applications is increasing, which reflects growing confidence in the industry that it understands and can comply with the applicable requirements, including the containment requirement,” Bromwich said, adding, “We expect additional permit approvals in the near future.”

BOEMRE said ExxonMobil contracted with MWCC to use its capping stack to stop oil flowing during a well control event. The US Department of the Interior agency said it reviewed the operator’s containment capability for the specific well proposed in the permit application and confirmed that the capping stack met requirements specific to the well’s characteristics.

The deepwater permit was the first using technology developed by MWCC, which ExxonMobil, Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips formed as it became apparent that existing offshore spill control systems were inadequate to capture and contain crude leaking from the Macondo well last summer. The consortium’s other members include BP PLC, the Macondo well’s operator; Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which had an interest in it; and Apache Deepwater LLC.

BOEMRE previously approved three permits for deepwater wells using technology developed by the Helix Well Containment Group, a separate consortium of deepwater well operators in the gulf whose membership grew to 22 companies with the addition on Mar. 22 of W&T Offshore Inc. and Stone Energy Corp. HWCG members Noble Energy Corp., BHB Billiton Petroleum, and ATP Oil & Gas Corp. received those permits.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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