Feds Issue First New Deepwater Drilling Permit In the Gulf of Mexico

Today, 11 months after the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued the first new deepwater exploration permit since the post-blowout federal moratorium was lifted last October.  Here is a very useful summary of what happened, with a link to the Shell application (note:  the link works in IE, does not work in Chrome) 

This is the same Shell application that I blogged about on February 8, 2011, outlining Shell’s worst-case scenario as submitted to BOEMRE.  As a reminder, Shell’s estimate of the worst case blowout scenario for one of the three wells allowed in today’s permit is 12.3 million barrels, around 2 ½ times the size of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

Shell estimates that it will take 109 days to drill a successful relief well, and relies on the multi-party Marine Well Control System apparatus that is in development, but may not yet be field-worthy.  Although Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich visited the Marine Well Containment Company last month to inspect this system, no details of their inspection have been made public. 

In my view, it is premature and unwise to issue a new exploration permit without public review of the ability of the Marine Well Control System to do what its proponents claim it can do.  No one wants another BP disaster.