On Friday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said at a breakfast briefing for reporters that “every time the government issues” a permit, “it needs to know whether companies have the means, should you lose control of the well, do you have the means of containing it? This is being demonstrated, and that’s why you see an increase in the number of licenses being issued.”
BP is part of a consortium of major oil companies operating in the gulf that acquired the equipment BP used in the summer to contain and fix the blowout, plus additional new equipment to bolster response capabilities.
They are stored onshore with people specially trained for such emergencies.
‘It’s still too soon’
But critics of BP and the industry say little has been done to make sure that a blowout does not happen in the first place.
A recent federal investigation into the blowout preventer on the Macondo well concluded that the device failed to cut through the pipe and seal the well because of high pressures and movement of the pipe, conditions that many experts said should be expected in such circumstances.
Athan Manuel, an offshore-drilling expert at the Sierra Club, said, “We don’t think that BP has shown it’s changed its corporate culture to earn the right to return to the Gulf of Mexico. . . . It’s still too soon for them to go back and operate in that area.”
The Financial Times said Sunday that the London-based oil giant had already struck a deal with U.S. regulators under which it would be allowed to drill 10 wells that were underway when the accident took place last year.
But Schwartz, the BOEMRE spokeswoman, said that “there is no such deal,” and another person familiar with the talks said discussions have not concluded.
No permits have been issued yet.
BP, like other oil companies, still has leases on some rigs standing by in the expectation that they will be allowed to drill again.
It is likely that BP will hire many of the same service companies that worked on the Macondo well, despite the finger-pointing the companies have done over who is to blame for last year’s blowout.
Transocean, which owned and operated Deepwater Horizon, owns the world’s largest fleet of deep-water drilling rigs. Halliburton is also a dominant firm in the well cementing business.