US Greenlights Gulf's 1st Deepwater Well Since Spill

Feds under pressure to drill as oil prices skyrocket
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2011 6:28 AM CST
US Greenlights Gulf's 1st Deepwater Well Since Spill
The Development Driller III, right, which drilled the relief well and sealed the Macondo well, and the Development Driller II, are among the last few vessels at the spill site, Sept. 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(Newser) – With oil prices again spiking above $100 a barrel, the US issued its first deepwater drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon made ocean-disaster history in the region. Noble Energy got the go-ahead to continue work on its Santiago well, which it had begun drilling just four days before BP's blowout, and was forced to halt work on two months later under the federal moratorium. At 6,500 feet below the surface, Noble's well is deeper than BP's blown out Macondo well, reports the AP.

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In Noble's worst-case scenario, the well could spill 3 million gallons a day—topping BP's 2.6 million gallons at its peak. "We expect further deepwater permits to be approved in coming weeks and months based on the same process that led to the approval of this permit," says the federal official who approved the well, adding that Noble showed that it could contain the well in the event of a blowout. The move comes as BP and TransOcean asked a federal judge to dismiss thousands of claims and lawsuits related to the spill. (Read more Deepwater Horizon stories.)

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