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U.S. Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Lease Sale Attracts USD 1.7 bln in High Bids

Yesterday, the Department of the Interior took the latest step as part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, holding a 39 million acre lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Central Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease sale attracted $1,704,500,995 in high bids for tracts on the U.S. outer continental shelf offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A total of 56 offshore energy companies submitted 593 bids on 454 tracts covering more than 2,402,918 acres. The sum of all bids received totaled $2,602,563,726.

The lease sale builds on a series of actions taken by the Obama administration, including additional lease sales for both onshore and offshore areas for oil and gas development, to meet the President’s direction to continue to expand safe and responsible production of America’s important domestic resources.

“This sale, part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, is good news for American jobs, good news for the Gulf economy, and will bring additional domestic resources to market,” said Salazar, who opened the sale. “When it comes to domestic production, the President has made clear he is committed to expanding oil and natural gas production safely and responsibly, and today’s sale is just the latest example of his administration delivering on that commitment. The numbers speak for themselves: every year the President has been in office, domestic oil and gas production has increased, foreign imports of oil have decreased, and we are currently producing more oil than any time in the past eight years.”

The Central Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 216/222, conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), offered more than 39 million acres for oil and gas development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The acreage included 7,434 tracts from three to more than 230 miles off the coast, in depths ranging from 10 to more than 11,200 feet (3 to 3,400 meters). BOEM estimates the economically recoverable hydrocarbons that could be produced as a result of the acreage offered ranges from 0.8 to 1.6 billion barrels of oil and 3.3 to 6.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The sale builds on the successful Western Gulf of Mexico lease sale held by BOEM in December 2011 that made available more than 21 million acres – equal to an area the size of South Carolina – and attracted more than $337 million in high bids and included 20 companies submitting 241 bids on 191 tracts comprising over a million acres offshore Texas. In 2010, DOI offered nearly 37 million offshore acres to industry for oil and gas leasing.

“Before moving forward with Sale 216/222, we conducted a rigorous analysis of the environmental effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Central Gulf of Mexico,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “We have also continued a number of lease terms designed to ensure fair return to the American people and provide innovative incentives to promote diligent development of our nation’s offshore oil and gas resources.”

Yesterday’s highest bid on a tract was $157,111,000 submitted by Statoil Gulf of Mexico LLC for Mississippi Canyon, Block 718. Shell submitted the highest total amount in bonus bids, $406,594,560 on 24 tracts.

Lease terms for both sales included escalating rental rates to encourage faster exploration and development of leases as well as shorter lease terms for shallower water in order to encourage timely development. BOEM has increased its minimum bid requirement in deepwater to $100 per acre, up from $37.50 in previous Central lease sales. Rigorous historical analysis showed that leases that received high bids of less than $100 per acre have experienced virtually no exploration and development activities.

Lessees will have to comply with a series of important environmental stipulations, including requirements to protect biologically sensitive features, as well as marine mammals and sea turtles, and employ trained observers to ensure compliance and restrict operations when conditions warrant. These terms will help ensure an appropriate balance of responsible resource development with protection of the human, marine and coastal environments.

Each high bid on a tract will now go through a strict evaluation process within BOEM to ensure the public receives fair market value before a lease is awarded. This is the final Gulf Lease Sale scheduled in the current Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program: 2007-2012.

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USA: Statoil Secures 26 New Leases in Gulf of Mexico

Statoil was the high bidder on 26 leases in the first lease sale in the Central Gulf of Mexico since March of 2010.

With the addition, Statoil will control more than 350 leases in the Gulf of Mexico, further securing its significant leaseholder position

“We are very pleased with today’s outcome,” says Erik Finnstrom, senior vice president of Exploration for Statoil in North America.

“This addition of leases allows us to further build upon our broad-based strategy for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and further upgrades our core position in this prolific and proven basin.”

As the world’s largest offshore operator and a leader in subsea technology, Statoil has been a partner in several major discoveries, including Jack, St. Malo, Julia, Vito and Logan.

“The lease additions underscore our commitment to increased investment in North America, which we see as a core region for long-term growth. Our strategy involves acquiring prospects across a full range of plays – from those at the frontier level to very mature, drill-ready plays,” Finnstrom says. “Statoil’s growth in North America has been methodical, based on best practices and technological innovation honed from operating for 40 years in some of the world’s harshest offshore regions.”

Statoil has six producing fields and has eight fields under development. At the moment the company is drilling the Bioko prospect in the central Gulf of Mexico region and plans to drill two to three more wells within the next 12 months offshore Gulf of Mexico, while also participating in an additional two to three wells drilled by its partners.

Statoil is the operator of three of 2011’s 10 largest oil and gas discoveries globally and has a strong safety and environmental record. The company has been active in North America for 25 years and, over the six years since it began operations, has acquired a broad portfolio with offshore and onshore assets in Canada and the U.S.

The lease sale on June 20 was conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

Statoil’s winning bids are subject to review and final approval by the BOEM. This may take up to 90 days.

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BOEM Seeks Public Opinion on Seismic Survey Activity Offshore Alaska

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced yesterday that it was seeking public input on issues that should be tackled by the bureau in preparing an Environmental Assessment for proposed seismic data acquisition activity in Arctic areas of the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

ION Geophysical Corporation has applied to conduct an exploratory 2D marine seismic survey during the fall of 2012. The application proposes conducting operations throughout much of the Beaufort Sea Planning Area, with specific transect lines and segments within the Chukchi Sea Planning Area. Data obtained during this survey would be used by geologists and geophysicists to view and interpret large-scale subsurface geologic structural features and evaluate prospects for oil and gas reserves.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), an agency under the United States Department of the Interior that manages the exploration and development of the nation’s offshore resources, has also on its website announced ION’s permit application #12-01 and the associated area coverage map. BOEM has also explained the the procedures required for submission of comments, setting the deadline for April 30, 2012. More information can be found at BOEM’s official website.

Below you can see ION’s recent video: Case Study in Challenging

Environments: The Arctic Environment

Uploaded by IONGeophysical on Sep 14, 2011

Top of the world tactics at ION. See the ION approach in action as Joe Gagliardi, Director Arctic Technology & Solutions, tackles the punishing Arctic environment. By combining the capabilities across the company, ION delivers the answers and the technology that allows operators to acquire data further north than ever before and dramatically extends the short working season.

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Oil leaders, GOP allies, downplay administration’s seismic plans

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House Natural Resources Committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash, leads a committee hearing. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am
by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The Obama administration’s announcement that it may allow seismic studies potentially paving the way for offshore drilling along the East Coast is political posturing designed to distract voters concerned about high gasoline prices, oil industry leaders and Republican lawmakers said today.

The administration’s move “continues the president’s election-year political ploy of giving speeches and talking about drilling after having spent the first three years in office blocking, delaying and driving up the cost of producing energy in America,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. “The president is focused on trying to talk his way out of what he’s done, rather than taking real steps to boost American energy production.”

At issue is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement in Norfolk, Va., this morning that the government is assessing the environmental effects of allowing seismic surveys along the mid- and south-Atlantic that could help locate hidden pockets of oil and gas. If ultimately approved, the studies by private geological research companies also could help guide decisions about where to place renewable energy projects off the coast.

The Interior Department is issuing a draft environmental impact statement that assesses the consequences of seismic research on marine life in the area. The Obama administration had planned to release a similar document in 2010, before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

If the draft environmental assessment is finalized after public comments and hearings, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could give companies permits to conduct the studies off the coasts of eight East Coast states.

Salazar said that if the geological research turned up promising results, that could open the door to offshore drilling in the area within five years, even though the administration currently has ruled out that kind of exploration before 2017. A government plan for selling offshore drilling leases from 2012 to 2017 does not include any auctions of Atlantic territory.

“If the information that is developed allows us to move forward in a quicker time frame, we can always come in with an amendment,” Salazar said. “We’re not prejudging that at this point in time. My view is … we need to develop information so we can make those wise decisions.”

Industry officials noted that under federal laws, it could take years for the government to revise the 2012-2017 leasing plan, even if federal officials decided to pursue Atlantic drilling.

Erik Milito, upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute, said the administration is repackaging old news and old plans to make it appear it is making real progress to encourage more domestic energy development.

“This is political rhetoric to make it appear the administration is doing something on gas prices, but in reality it is little more than an empty gesture,” Milito said.

Randall Luthi, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association, likened the administration’s announcement to giving the industry “a canoe with no oars, since there are no lease sales planned anywhere off the East Coast.”

If allowed to conduct seismic surveys, geological research firms would ultimately give the resulting information to the government and sell it to companies eager to analyze the data.

But Milito questioned whether seismic companies would pursue the work, given that some of their best customers — oil companies — wouldn’t be able to use it to plan offshore drilling for years, if at all.

“Without an Atlantic coast lease sale in their five-year plan, the administration’s wishful thinking on seismic research has no ultimate purpose,” Milito said. “The White House has banned lease sales in the Atlantic for at least the next five years, discouraging the investment and job creation, and ultimately production, which would make seismic exploration valuable.”

Still, at least six companies already have told the government they want to conduct seismic research along the East Coast.

“We have gotten significant expressions of interest from companies in contracting for these seismic surveys,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “I am confident that, assuming the process continues on the track we anticipate, that there will be significant interest next year in conducting these surveys.”

Geological research uses seismic waves to map what lies underground or beneath the ocean floor. The shock waves — which some environmental advocates say may harm marine life — map the density of subterranean material and can gives clues about possible oil and gas.

Seismic studies also help identify geologic hazards and archaeological resources in the seabed — information useful in determining the placement of renewable energy infrastructure as well as oil and gas equipment.

The existing seismic surveys of the Atlantic coast are decades old, and in the years since, “there have been enormous technological advances,” Salazar noted.

“We do need to have seismic moving forward so we can really understand what the resource potential is,” Salazar added.

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Obama administration advances plan for seismic research along Atlantic coast

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Posted on March 28, 2012 at 12:01 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The Obama administration will announce Wednesday that it is advancing a plan to allow new seismic research designed to help identify hidden pockets of oil and gas in Atlantic waters along the East Coast.

The move by the Interior Department is the beginning of a long path that eventually could lead to new offshore drilling off the coast from Delaware to Florida.

Senior administration officials who spoke exclusively to the Houston Chronicle confirmed the plan on condition they not be identified ahead of the official announcement.

The plan could mean new work for Houston-based seismic firms, which likely would conduct some of the first such surveys of the region in decades.

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama tries to assuage concerns about rising oil and gasoline prices ahead of the November election, amid Republican criticism that his energy policies have sent costs higher.

The administration had signaled plans to allow Atlantic seismic research before the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill stalled approval of offshore activities.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce the plan in Norfolk, Va. at Fugro Atlantic, a company that conducts geotechnical and marine research.

Future seismic research in the Atlantic waters could help guide decisions about where to allow drilling leases and equipment that generates renewable energy, such as wind turbines.

But it would be at least five years before the government sold any leases in Atlantic waters. Interior Department plans governing those decisions through 2017 do not include lease sales  in the region.

Geological research uses seismic waves to map what lies underground or beneath the ocean floor. The shock waves — which some environmental advocates say may harm marine life — map the density of subterranean material and can gives clues about possible oil and gas.

Seismic studies also help identify geologic hazards and archaeological resources in the seabed —  information useful in determining the placement of renewable energy infrastructure as well as oil and gas equipment.

Energy companies use the data to plan where to buy leases and how to prioritize projects. But they know little about what lies below federal waters along the East Coast. Existing seismic surveys of the area are more than 25 years old and were conducted with now-outdated technology.

Oil industry officials have downplayed the significance of allowing seismic surveys along the Atlantic Coast, noting the government makes no guarantee that it will let them drill. That skepticism also could limit the market for seismic research firms.

But the administration has said that collecting the data for different regions — even if they aren’t targeted immediately for development — is key to understanding their potential. Obama asked the Interior Department to speed up its search for Atlantic resources in May 2011.

Wednesday’s action takes the form of a federally required draft statement on the environmental effects of seismic surveys in the outer continental shelf along the East Coast.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on that draft environmental impact statement during hearings along the East Coast.

Source

BOEM: Conditional Approval for Shell’s Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan (USA)

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on Friday, October 16, issued conditional approval of Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc.’s revised Exploration Plan under leases in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area. In its Exploration Plan, Shell proposes drilling up to six exploration wells in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea beginning in the 2012 drilling season.

This decision follows the bureau’s completion of a site-specific Environmental Assessment that examined the potential environmental effects of the plan. The conditions of approval require Shell to comply with a range of important safety and environmental protection measures.

BOEM’s conditional approval does not authorize Shell to commence exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Shell must satisfy the conditions of BOEM’s approval, as well as obtain approvals from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) regarding its Oil Spill Response Plan and well-specific applications for permit to drill.

“Our scientists and subject matter experts have carefully scrutinized Shell’s proposed activities,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “We will continue to work closely with agencies across the federal government to ensure that Shell complies with the conditions we have imposed on its Exploration Plan and all other applicable safety, environmental protection and emergency response standards.”

Shell acquired its leases in the Chukchi Sea in 2008 under Lease Sale 193, which BOEM recently reaffirmed after completing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. All of these leases are subject to a series of stipulated requirements to mitigate operational and environmental risks, and the conditions for approval of Shell’s Exploration Plan build on and expand those requirements.

Among the conditions of approval is a measure designed to mitigate the risk of an end-of-season oil spill by requiring Shell to leave sufficient time to implement cap and containment operations as well as significant clean-up before the onset of sea ice, in the event of a loss of well control. Given current technology and weather forecasting capabilities, Shell must cease drilling into zones capable of flowing liquid hydrocarbons 38 days before the first-date of ice encroachment over the drill site. Based on a 5-year analysis of historic weather patterns, BOEM anticipates November 1 as the earliest anticipated date of ice encroachment. The 38-day period would also provide a window for the drilling of a relief well, should one be required.

Shell must also obtain necessary permits from other agencies — the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Source

Feds approve Murphy drilling project using Helix emergency equipment

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Cameron Wallace, left, and Eric Poller, a subsea engineer for Helix Well Ops, look at a new oil spill-containment system developed by Houston’s Helix Energy Solutions. (Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle)

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Federal regulators on Monday issued a permit to the first offshore drilling operation planning to rely on a Houston company’s cap-and-flow containment system in case of a disaster.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave the permit to Murphy Exploration & Production Co., allowing the firm to drill a sidetrack well at its Thunder Hawk field about 150 miles southeast of New Orleans.

Other companies have successfully submitted oil spill response plans that would rely on the capping stack developed by Helix Well Containment Group or a separate system devised by the Marine Well Containment Co. But Murphy is the first firm to win regulators’ sign off for an emergency response plan involving Helix’s full flowback system.

The cap-and-flow system caps the well and contains any additional flowing oil in case it is out of control. The entire system involves a capping stack installed on the well head and a flowback system designed to direct the crude to vessels floating overhead.

Although some wells require only the containment system, the cap-and-flow equipment is geared toward operations with higher pressure. Regulators say the cap-and-flow program can help maintain the integrity of an underwater well in cases where the capping stack alone might not do the trick.

The Helix cap-and-flow system is capable of sending 55,000 barrels of oil and 95 million cubic feet of gas per day to the floating ships.

Separately, Helix is asking the Obama administration for a license to provide its containment equipment in case of a spill from offshore drilling in Cuban waters. The Spanish company Repsol is set to begin drilling a deep-water exploratory well north of the island nation — just 50 miles from south Florida — in December or January.

Helix spokesman Cameron Wallace said the ultimate scope of services that would be offered is still under consideration “and no firm commitments have yet been made.”

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba generally bars U.S. companies from exporting equipment and services to it, but American firms can get special approval from the Treasury Department.

“We believe that it is important to make proven solutions, similar to our Helix Fast Response System, available for any drilling project that could potentially impact the nation’s coastlines,” Wallace said. “Helix’s goal is to make some of these spill containment technologies available while fully complying with federal trade regulations.”

Source

Bromwich at OTC 2011: Feds will regulate offshore contractors

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Posted on May 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm
by Jennifer Dlouhy

The federal government will expand its oversight of coastal drilling to include new regulation of oil field service firms, rig suppliers and other offshore contractors, a top Obama administration official said today.

Michael Bromwich, the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said a broad internal review of current laws concluded that the agency has “broad legal authority over all activities relating to offshore leases, whether it is engaged in by lessees, operators or contractors.”

“We can exercise such authority as we deem appropriate,” Bromwich told the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Bromwich has floated the idea of expanding the ocean energy bureau’s reach beyond oil and gas companies before — but he had been unsure whether the move would require Congress to go along with the plan. According to the administration’s internal legal review, congressional action isn’t necessary; the agency already has the authority.

Historically, the federal offshore energy agency — previously known as the Minerals Management Service — has focused on leaseholders and operators. Other federal agencies, such as the Coast Guard, separately regulate entities such as drilling rigs and their owners. The benefit of the traditional system, Bromwich acknowledged, is that “it served to preserve clarity and the singular responsibility of the operator.”

But the drilling chief said that he was “convinced that we can fully preserve the principle of holding operators fully responsible — and in most cases solely responsible — without sacrificing the ability to pursue regulatory actions against contractors for serious violations of agency rules and regulations.”

Bromwich insisted the Obama administration would be “careful and measured in extending our regulatory authority to contractors.”

The presidential commission that investigated last year’s oil spill concluded that poor communication among contractors on the Deepwater Horizon rig contributed to the disaster.

Sean Grimsley, the panel’s deputy chief counsel, said that there was an absence of a sense of real responsibility at the Macondo well.

“One of the problems is that there are upwards of 20 plus contractors out here on one of these rigs,” Grimsley said. “What we saw here was that different contractors were making critical decisions, often times without communicating what they had learned to other decision makers.”

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