OIL & GAS | New drilling rules in the US

THE US Department of the Interior has announced new drilling rules that should allow the resumption of some Gulf of Mexico drilling and production.

The rules, which cover both shallow and deepwater operations, mandate new third-party verification and other inspection and documentation requirements. The department noted that drilling in waters deeper than 500ft (152m) remains barred under a six-month moratorium, but shallow drilling and production in both deep and shallow waters are permitted.

The American Petroleum Institute warned yesterday that “the six-month moratorium could result in a production loss of between 80,000 and 130,000 barrels per day”.

It appears increasingly likely that rig owners will declare force majeure and relocate assets, expanding opportunities for tanker imports. Anadarko has already confirmed force majeure for three of its gulf rigs.

In a research note, FBR Capital said “five to six rigs are already preparing to depart the US Gulf of Mexico for other markets”, but “it remains unclear how many will leave in total”.

“We believe that all of the rigs where contracts are cancelled under force majeure will end up departing the US Gulf … likely for at least several years on average,” FBR concluded.

Meanwhile, UK energy minister Charles Hendry said his country does not intend to alter deepwater drilling plans for the frontier west of Shetland, despite the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, IHS Global Insight reported today.

“We have a view as a government that we think it’s in our national interest to get the most out of own indigenous resources,” Hendry told Reuters, adding that safety would be paramount.

Global Insight commented that the UK stance contrasts with that of Norway, where oil minister Terje Riis-Johansen said no new deepwater licences would be awarded until the gulf spill is further investigated.



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