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Obama Administration Approves Fourth Gulf Deepwater Drilling Permit

Andrew Restuccia

BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich said Tuesday the administration has “growing confidence” in the industry, noting that more approvals are pending. (AFP/US Coast Guard/File)

The Interior Department announced Tuesday it has approved another Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling permit under a series of beefed-up safety standards.

It’s the fourth such approval for the type of project that was halted in the aftermath of last year’s Gulf oil spill.

The approval comes a day after Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved the first deepwater exploration plan in the Gulf since the spill, a key step in moving forward with new drilling in the region.

Pro-drilling lawmakers and the oil industry have railed against the administration for the slow-down in Gulf drilling permits since the oil spill. But the administration has stressed that it is working diligently to process applications, but it will not issue permits until companies can show they are capable of containing a massive well blowout.

BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich said Tuesday the administration has “growing confidence” in the industry, noting that more approvals are pending.

"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,” he said in a statement. “We expect additional permit approvals in the near future.”

The permit BOEMRE approved will allow Exxon Mobil to drill a new well in 6,941 feet of water about 240 miles off the coast of Louisiana. It's the first of the four deepwater drilling permits approved by BOEMRE since the spill that would allow new drilling.

Exxon Mobil had received approval to drill the new well prior to the spill, but the project was halted in the aftermath of the disaster. The company had to receive approval from BOEMRE under a series of new safety standards put in place in the aftermath of the spill.

It’s the first permit to be approved by BOEMRE that will use an oil containment system developed by the Marine Well Containment Company. The Marine Well Containment Company is a coalition formed by major oil companies to develop undersea containment technology.

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