Shallow-water drillers claim ‘impasse’ with Interior on permits

Bromwich, after the meeting, pledged to work with the industry. But Bromwich defended the continued slowdown in permitting that he said stems from new information the industry must provide under Interior safety mandates issued in June.

“[T]he central fact is that it has taken time to submit and verify the additional required information. We will not approve applications until and unless they fully comply with the new requirements. That will not make everyone happy, but it is the right way to proceed,” Bromwich said.

But the industry says Interior’s reaction to the BP oil spill, which stemmed from the blowout of a deepwater well, has created unfair burdens for projects that don’t present the same safety risks. Noe said that shallow water projects, which are mostly natural-gas projects, are “drilled into well-understood, predictable and mature reservoirs.”

“Shallow water rigs use simple, proven well control techniques with blowout prevention equipment located on the rig above the surface of the water,” Noe said in a statement.

“We urged Director Bromwich to respect the distinct differences between shallow water operations and deep water operations and requested that the agency establish a tiered review process for new wells that is properly calibrated to the actual risk the well presents,” he added.

Other companies in the coalition include Apache Corp., Phoenix Exploration, Rowan Companies and other energy and drilling services companies.