Offshore Outlook

BOEM working to speed up approval of offshore drilling permits

September 6, 2011

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) is still trying to improve the efficiency of the plan and permit review process in order to speed up the issuance of offshore drilling permits.

BOEM Director Michael R. Bromwich said recently that they continue to meet with operators frequently to improve the efficiency of reviewing exploration plans and applications for drilling permits.

“Our goal is to reduce the amount of back and forth with plan and permit applications and to help the industry learn from the best practices that many operators have developed to submit successful applications,” he said. “That will result in higher quality applications in the first instance and reduce the need for them to be returned to operators. We will continue to search for additional ways to improve our own processes and make them more efficient.”

At the end of August, BOEM said 34 unique wells have been permitted that require subsea containment since an applicant first successfully demonstrated containment capabilities in mid-February. There are currently 17 permits pending and 22 permits have been returned to the operator with requests for additional information. BOEM has also approved 45 permits for activities including water injection wells and procedures using surface blowout preventers. Only one of these permits is pending and one has been returned to the operator for additional information.

BOEM said 69 new shallow-water well permits have been issued since the implementation of new safety and environmental standards on June 8, 2010. In a nod to those who say that BOEM has been slower to grant drilling permits for shallow-water wells, the agency noted that it has granted an average of more than seven per month since fall 2010, compared to an average of eight a month in 2009. Just 13 of these permits are currently pending with 10 having been returned to the operator for more information, BOEM said.

The permitting process is apparently still too slow for several operators and drilling contractors. Seven rigs are scheduled to exit the U.S. Gulf between the end of August and the end of November, including two semisubmersibles, one drillship and four jackups. This will be offset by two newbuild jackups that will mobilize to the Gulf by the end of the year. Several deepwater rigs are expected to return to the Gulf and a few newbuild deepwater rigs delivered, but that isn’t expected until sometime next year.


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