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Shell Readies 3 Applications for Gulf of Mexico Wells

By Katarzyna Klimasinska – Dec 17, 2010 11:12 PM GMT+0000

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, is preparing three exploration plans to meet new requirements for deep-water wells in the Gulf of Mexico after the U.S. lifted a drilling ban, a spokeswoman said today.

Statoil ASA, the Nordic region’s biggest energy producer, has filed applications for two new wells since the moratorium ended on Oct. 12, Tony Dore, head of Statoil’s exploration unit in North America, said on Dec. 10.

Drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet (152 meters) remains idle more than two months after President Barack Obama ended the moratorium as regulators review compliance with environmental and safety rules imposed after BP Plc’s Macondo oil-well blast. The U.S. received three applications for new wells subject to regulations introduced after the spill, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.

“It does remain to be seen how long it’s going to take to get permits approved,” Erik Milito, the upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute, said today in a phone interview from Washington. “The companies have the ability to move forward in a safe, environmentally responsible manner.”

“Future drilling permits must first wait on approved exploration plans,” Kelly op de Weegh, a spokeswoman for The Hague-based Shell, said in an e-mail today.

Shell operated five rigs, more than any other company, in deep waters when Obama halted the activity following the Macondo explosion, the Interior Department said. The blast killed 11 workers, spewed crude for 87 days and shut a third of the Gulf to commercial fishing.

“The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement received three applications for new wells subject to regulations introduced after the spill,” said Melissa Schwartz, spokeswoman for the agency. “Only one of these permits is for activity that was suspended under the moratorium, and has been returned to the operator because it was incomplete.”

The agency also returned 11 other permits that were submitted to the agency prior to the lifting of the moratorium, Schwartz said.

The moratorium cut Shell’s Gulf output by 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, Simon Henry, chief financial officer for the company, said on an Oct. 28 conference call.

To contact the reporters on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington at [email protected];

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at [email protected].

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