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BOEM approves first BP deepwater exploration plan since Macondo

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved a supplemental exploration plan (EP) submitted by BP PLC for deepwater oil and gas activity in US coastal waters. It was the first EP submitted by BP, BOEM noted, since its April 2010 Macondo deepwater well blowout and resulting explosion and fire that killed 11 crew members on Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible. BP operated the Macondo well, which spilled nearly 5 million bbl of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

US Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), ranking minority member of the House Natural Resources Committee, immediately said the Oct. 21 action may be premature. “Comprehensive safety legislation hasn't passed Congress, and BP hasn't paid the fines they owe for their spill, yet BP is being given back the keys to drill in the gulf,” he said.

BOEM said it conducted a site-specific environmental assessment of proposed activities BP described in its submitted plan, making it the 44th such plan to undergo this process since DOI implemented stronger relations in June 2010. The agency said BP still must obtain drilling permits from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental enforcement, BOEM’s sister agency, before any drilling commences.

BP also had to meet more rigorous requirements implemented after the incident and spill before BOEM approved this supplemental EP, BOEM said. It noted that BP announced in July that it would implement additional safety and performance standards in connection with its deepwater gulf drilling. BOEM said it has verified that BP has met the relevant voluntary performance standards.

It said the supplemental EP proposes drilling as many as four wells in 6,019-34 ft of water on Keathley Canyon Blocks 292 and 336, which BP acquired in 1997 and 2003 lease sales, about 192 miles off Louisiana.

An EP describes all exploration activities planned by an operator on a specific lease or leases, including the anticipated timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, and the location of each planned well, BOEM said.

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