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BP wins approval for new deep-water drilling in Gulf of Mexico

October 26, 2011 | 12:05 pm

BP won approval from the Interior Department to drill its first exploratory oil well in the Gulf of Mexico since the blowout of its Macondo well a year and a half ago touched off the country’s worst offshore environmental disaster.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said that BP met more stringent safety requirements devised by the federal government in the aftermath of the disaster. The company also planned to follow even tougher voluntary standards that exceeded the government’s rules. 

“This permit was approved only after thorough well design, blowout preventer, and containment capability reviews,” said bureau director Michael R. Bromwich.

At more than 6,000 feet, the proposed well would be in deeper water than the Macondo well.  It is part of the company’s Kaskida prospect located in an area called the Keathley canyon about 250 miles south of Lafayette, La.  The company submitted the application to drill in January.

Cleanup of gulf waters continues in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the sea over several months.
Last week, the Interior Department granted approval to a broader exploration plan from BP for the Kaskida prospect based on its adherence to the agency’s new rules.

Environmentalists have said that the new regulatory agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement,  is better than its predecessor, the Minerals Management Service, which had exercised uneven, sometimes lax oversight of offshore energy projects, investigations showed.

But they argue that more work needs to be done to improve offshore drilling safety, including a redesign of blowout preventers and modernization of cleanup procedures.


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-- Neela Banerjee in Washington, D.C.

Photo: BP corporagte logo. Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty Images