By CHRIS KAHN
NEW YORK – BP wouldn’t say Wednesday whether it will seek new permits to drill in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico now that the moratorium imposed after its massive spill has been lifted.
Other oil companies, such as Royal Dutch Shell, have made clear their intentions to begin drilling as soon as the government will let them. That day could be weeks or months away.
BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on April 20, killing 11 people and leading to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Four of its other deep-water drilling projects were halted by the moratorium imposed in late May.
Shell and other companies, including Noble Corp. and Seahawk Drilling Inc., indicated they are working to comply with new rules put in place since June. BP said Wednesday it is not ready to comment on its plans for future deep-water drilling in the Gulf. Officials from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulates offshore drilling, said they’re not aware of BP’s intentions and won’t speculate on the company’s plans.
BP is expected to maintain a strong presence in the Gulf, however. The British oil giant relies on the region for about 10 percent of its total oil and gas production. It recently announced plans to join a team led by Exxon Mobil that is developing a system for responding to a major offshore oil spill.
Meanwhile, numerous investigations are examining the causes of the April explosion, including BP’s role. Congress also is considering a bill that would prohibit companies with poor safety records from receiving new permits to drill in U.S. waters. BP’s safety record, with three major incidents in the U.S. in six years, would expose it to the prohibition.
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