Shell granted first new deepwater well permit in GOM since Deepwater Horizon explosion

On March 30, nearly a year after the April 20, 2010 explosion that sunk the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved a deepwater drilling permit for a new well that was described in Shell Offshore Inc’s recently approved Exploration Plan.

According to BOEMRE, the proposed well was also considered in the Site-Specific Environmental Assessment (SEA) completed as part of the plan review. In order to receive the permit approval, Shell complied with rigorous new safety standards implemented in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill. This includes satisfying the requirement to demonstrate the capacity to contain a subsea blowout. The approved permit is a permit to drill a new well for Shell’s Well #DC001 in Garden Banks Block 427 in 2,721 foot water depth, approximately 137 miles off the Louisiana coastline, south of Lafayette.

“Today’s permit approval represents a culmination of a broad and comprehensive review process involving an exploration plan, a site-specific environmental assessment, and the application for the drilling permit - all of which complied with our rigorous safety and environmental standards,” said BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. “The completion of this process further demonstrates that we are proceeding as quickly as our resources allow to properly regulate offshore oil and gas operations in the most safe and environmentally-responsible manner.”

All offshore wells are identified in either an exploration or development plan, which require approval prior to drilling permits being issued. Shell’s supplemental Exploration Plan, which includes Well #DC001, was approved March 21. As part of the plan’s review process, BOEMRE prepared a SEA to examine Shell’s proposed exploration activities in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the implementation of departmental and bureau regulations. For more information, go to: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Interior-Approves-First-Gulf-of-Mexico-Deepwater-Exploration-Plan-with-Post-Deepwater-Horizon-Environmental-Review.cfm.

As part of the permit approval process, the bureau reviewed Shell’s containment capability available for the specific well proposed in the permit application. Shell has contracted with the Marine Well Containment Company to use its capping stack to stop the flow of oil should a well control event occur. The capabilities of the capping stack meet the requirements that are specific to the characteristics of the proposed well.

Today’s permit adds to the number of permits that have been approved since new safety regulations have been put in place. For a list of well types, pending and approved permits, and information on new safety regulations, go to:
http://www.gomr.boemre.gov/homepg/offshore/safety/well_permits.html.

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