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US lifts Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling ban

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

The United States lifted a ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico imposed after the BP oil spill, but set operators tough new safety conditions, officials said.


“We have decided it is now appropriate to lift the suspension on deepwater drilling for those operators that are able to clear the higher bar that we have set” for safety, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.


President Barack Obama ordered a six-month freeze on deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after a blowout on the BP Deepwater Horizon undersea well that killed 11 rig workers and sparked the worst oil disaster in US history.


The moratorium was due to expire at the end of next month.

Oil rigs are seen in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2010.

The new rules, which were laid out by the Interior Department two weeks ago, toughen up companies’ obligations on drilling and workplace safety, well containment and spill response, said Salazar.


Key among the tough new rules is an obligation for the CEO of any company wishing to drill in deep water to “certify that the rig has complied with all new and existing rules,” he said.


Executives from the companies involved in the BP-leased well that blew out have blamed each other for the accident which happened some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana.


But even if the moratorium was being lifted, deepwater drilling was not expected to resume soon, said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM).


Oil and gas companies need time to implement the new rules and draw up applications for offshore leases “and it will obviously take us time to review those applications and do due diligence,” said Bromwich.


American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard welcomed the lifting of the drilling ban but worried that “a de facto moratorium could be created by delays in the processing and approval of permits, which will reduce production, government revenues and American jobs.”


Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, where residents were hard hit by the moratorium on drilling, was relieved that the ban had been lifted, but voiced concern that a slow-moving permitting process would end up smothering the local oil and gas industry.


We hope that the new regulations and new policies will make drilling safer for both the people working offshore and the environment in the future.


“At the same time, we hope the regulations will not delay the permitting process for deepwater or other drilling, which ends up smothering the industry,” Nungesser said.


Republican Congressman Darrell Issa also urged the government to “avoid a de facto moratorium-by-regulatory-delay … that would be just as damaging to the Gulf economy as a blanket moratorium.”


A study in July estimated that a six-month moratorium would cost more than 8,000 jobs in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and wipe out nearly 2.1 billion dollars in economic activity in the Gulf states.


Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who has called the moratorium a “reckless” move that endangered the environment and jobs, welcomed Tuesday’s announcement as “a step in the right direction.”


“But it must be accompanied by an action plan to get the entire industry in the Gulf of Mexico back to work,” including an acceleration of the permitting process, she added.


Environmental groups, meanwhile, said the ban had been lifted too soon.

“Scientists haven’t even assessed the full ecological impact of the BP disaster and yet the government is in a rush to allow oil companies to get back to drilling. It is irresponsible to say the least, reckless at worst,” said Greenpeace USA director Phil Radford.

Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the moratorium should have stayed in place.

“To ensure a disaster like this never happens again, we must know what caused it in the first place. We?re still waiting for that answer and until we get it, the moratorium should remain in place,” he said.

The Sierra Club said the moratorium had been only a temporary fix, and the real solution was to wean the United States off oil.

“The only way to make sure we don?t see another drilling disaster is to end our dependence on oil,” said Sierra Club president Michael Brune.

“The BP disaster was a wake up call, but our leaders keep hitting the snooze button,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Tropical depression halts drilling at Gulf well

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

Drilling the final feet of a relief well intended to permanently plug the busted BP oil well deep below the Gulf of Mexico will have to wait two to three days as a strengthening tropical depression bears down on the site.


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.

– In this Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010 picture, a support vessel, foreground center, and others surround the Helix Q4000, background center, used to perform the static kill operation, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.


Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation because southeast Louisiana is the “geographic and psychological ‘center of gravity'” for the cases.

Source: SGGP

Tropical depression halts drilling at Gulf well

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

Drilling the final feet of a relief well intended to permanently plug the busted BP oil well deep below the Gulf of Mexico will have to wait two to three days as a strengthening tropical depression bears down on the site.


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.

– In this Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010 picture, a support vessel, foreground center, and others surround the Helix Q4000, background center, used to perform the static kill operation, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation


BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La.


The center of the storm was located off Florida, hundreds of miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving northwest and was expected to strengthen slowly and become a tropical storm on Wednesday.


Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.


Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they’ve drilled so far, but they won’t send workers back to land. They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill.


The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.


Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.


“I’m not sure we know that … I don’t want to prejudge whether we are going to do it or not going to do it. It will be conditions-based.”


He later assigned a “very low probability” to the bottom kill not being done, but then said: “We will let everybody know” if that changes.


BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said it’s “really a possibility” that cement engineers pumped in through the top went down into the reservoir, came back up and plugged the annulus, which is between the inner piping and the outer casing.


Allen also said officials were removing some boom that had been put out to catch oil in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He said the boom will be put it in storage and available for future use if necessary.


The delay from the storm came on the same day that anglers and tourism operators got some good news: Federal authorities announced that about 5,000 square miles of Gulf along Florida’s Panhandle was reopened for commercial and recreational fishing.


Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said the expanse from east of Pensacola to Cape San Blas and extending south into the open Gulf was safe for fishing. No oil has been observed in those waters since July 3, though testing will continue.


The spill started with an April 20 explosion that sank the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 workers.


More than 300 lawsuits filed in the aftermath against BP and other companies will be handled by a federal judge in New Orleans, a judicial panel said Tuesday.


An order issued Tuesday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.


The judicial panel’s order says the federal court based in New Orleans is the best place for the litigation because southeast Louisiana is the “geographic and psychological ‘center of gravity'” for the cases.

Source: SGGP

Obama plan expands offshore oil drilling

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 at 5:11 am

President Barack Obama announced a plan to expand oil drilling off US coasts, drawing protests from green groups but charges by Republicans it did not go far enough.


The decision was a reversal of Obama’s early 2008 campaign strategy, when he argued that lifting curbs on offshore drilling would take years to have an impact and would not provide enough sufficient extra supplies to be justified.


The president’s plan, part of a comprehensive energy strategy, would see new tracts of the Atlantic off the Virginia coast opened to exploration, and expand leases for prospecting in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.

Offshore oil rigs are seen at night near Santa Barbara, California

Scientific research off Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will also be authorized, but four pending lease sales in those waters that were approved under a plan of the former administration of president George W. Bush will be cancelled.


Exploration will be barred in Bristol Bay in the eastern Bering Sea, a crucial habitat for sockeye salmon and other wildlife.


“In the short term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we’ll have to make tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development in ways that protect communities and coastlines,” Obama said.


Obama portrayed the decision as part of a comprehensive energy plan, designed to wean the United States off foreign energy sources from volatile areas, and develop a new green economy.


“The bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we?re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.”


The announcement comes at a time when Democratic plans to pass “cap and trade” legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions face uncertainty in Congress as the economic crisis lingers in a mid-term election year.


Republicans, who have marched in lock step to oppose almost all of Obama’s domestic agenda, back wider exploration of untapped US reserves, and adopted a “Drill, baby, drill,” mantra during the 2008 presidential campaign.


But party leaders argued Wednesday that Obama’s plan was too limited in scope, while some energy industry advocates complained the administration was not lifting a ban on oil prospecting off the northeast and Pacific coasts.


“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but a small one that leaves enormous amounts of American energy off limits,” said Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell.


Environmentalists also criticized Obama’s plan, some warning that the prospect of future drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas could threaten prime polar bear habitats.Related article:Environmentalists upset at Obama offshore drilling plan


“Today’s announcement is unfortunately all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama — promises of change, a year of ?deliberation,? and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own, said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity.


“Rather than bring about the change we need, this plan will further our national addiction to oil and contribute to global warming, while at the same time directly despoiling the habitat of polar bears, endangered whales, and other imperiled wildlife.”


Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford also criticized the plan.


“Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change,” he said.


The energy industry applauded the decision.

“If the proposed areas ultimately end up being leased, it will represent the most significant increase in access to domestic energy from our oceans in decades,” said Randall Luthi of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).

Obama initially opposed Republican calls in 2008 to lift the moratorium on more offshore drilling, but later adjusted tack amid rising gasoline prices, and said he would favor such a step as part of a comprehensive energy strategy.

“People who were watching this election knew that if you pulled the lever for Barack Obama in November of 2008… he was going to take a comprehensive view and not just take the short view that drilling was the answer to all of our answers,” said White House deputy spokesman Bill Burton.

In Cancun, Mexico, where the International Energy Forum was meeting, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi had positive words for Obama’s measure.

Approving new exploration areas was part of “good moves to increase supply of energy, which the world needs,” Nuaimi told reporters.

Nuaimi said that for the world to grow in the next 20 to 30 years “we need all sources of energy whether they are fossil fuels, renewable… wind, nuclear, biofuels.”

Source: SGGP