The job-killing Obama White House has finally issued the first deepwater drilling permit since the BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf last spring.
But as the folks at Louisiana-based blog The Hayride put it: Hoo-freaking-rah.
It’s gesture politics, as always:
There is much rejoicing in the oil patch today over the news that the Obama administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
The permit went to Noble Energy for a well at the Santiago project, approximately 70 miles southeast of Venice, La., not far from the Macondo well that the Deepwater Horizon was working on.
Here’s the thing, though – this isn’t a permit for a new project. The permit issued to Noble was for a bypass of an obstruction in a well they’d already drilled before the Deepwater Horizon accident. It took 314 days to get that well back online with this administration.
From Noble Energy’s press release on the subject…
Located in 6,500 feet of water, the Santiago exploration well had previously drilled to a depth of 13,585 feet at the time of the moratorium. Drilling operations are anticipated to resume in late March 2011, targeting total drilling depth of approximately 19,000 feet. Results are expected by the end of May 2011. The Ensco 8501 rig, which performed completion operations on the Santa Cruz and Isabela discoveries at the Galapagos project during the second half of 2010, will perform the drilling at Santiago.
“This permit was issued for one simple reason: the operator successfully demonstrated that it can drill its deep-water well safely and that it is capable of containing a sub-sea blowout if it were to occur,” BOEMRE head Michael Bromwich said. “We expect further deep-water permits to be approved in coming weeks and months based on the same process that led to the approval of this permit.”
Noble has contracted with Helix Energy Solutions Group to use that firm’s collection system (due to go online by the end of March) in the event the well’s blowout preventer fails. Helix built a system to deal with well control in just such an eventuality, as did the industry consortium Marine Well Control Corporation, which announced a little over a week ago they had completed an interim system to deal with a wild deepwater well.
No new project has been issued a permit by BOEMRE yet. Shell has applied for one, and a decision on it is supposed to be made any day now. But Bromwich touted today’s announcement as a big deal in any event at a press conference this afternoon.
“This is a new well in the sense it is going into a reservoir and therefore was barred under the moratorium,” Bromwich said. ”So we treat an application for a bypass like this much as we do for new wells. I don’t think it’s right to say, ‘Oh it’s just a bypass so its not as significant as a permit for a new well.’”
It’s not a new well. It’s a well Noble had been drilling for four days when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, and it’s a well that would have been online and producing oil but for the 314-day delay in getting a permit from the administration. That Bromwich wants the same credit for issuing this permit as for a new well is very instructive.
Yep, crushing the industry with one hand while the other pats itself on the back for saving it.
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