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BSEE: HWCG Capping Stack Successfully Tested

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Noble Energy, Inc. and the Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG) announced Tuesday the successful completion of a full-scale deployment of critical well control equipment to assess Noble Energy’s ability to respond to a potential subsea blowout in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

BSEE Director James Watson confirmed that the HWCG capping stack deployed for the exercise met the pressurization requirements of the drill scenario, marking successful completion of the exercise.

The unannounced deployment drill, undertaken at the direction of BSEE, began April 30 to test the HWCG capping stack system – a 20-feet tall, 146,000-pound piece of equipment similar to the one that stopped the flow of oil from the Macondo well following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010. During this exercise, the capping stack was deployed in more than 5,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Once on site, the system was lowered to a simulated well head (a pre-set parking pile) on the ocean floor, connected to the well head, and pressurized to 8,400 pounds per square inch.

“Deployment drill exercises like this one are essential to supporting President Obama’s commitment to the safe and responsible development of offshore resources,” said Director Watson. “BSEE continually works to ensure that the oil and natural gas industry is prepared and ready to respond with the most effective equipment and response systems.”

BSEE engineers, inspectors and oil spill response specialists are evaluating the deployment operations and identifying lessons learned as the bureau continues efforts to improve safety and environmental protection across the offshore oil and natural gas industry.

“The quick and effective response to a deepwater well containment incident, demonstrated during the drill, was enabled by collaborative communication and planning between the industry and regulatory agencies with a focus on solutions-based outcomes,” said John Lewis, senior vice president of Noble Energy. “BSEE, the U.S. Coast Guard, Louisiana Offshore Coordinator’s Office and Noble Energy brought unique perspectives together in a Unified Command structure to achieve a shared goal. Through excellent coordination within the Incident Command System structure that included elevating the Source Control Chief to report directly to Unified Command, the dedication of hundreds of people and activation of the HWCG rapid response system, all objectives were met.”

“HWCG’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to a call from Noble Energy and every operator in our consortium is made possible by a combination of the mutual aid agreement committed to by each consortium member and the contracts we have in place for equipment that is staffed and working in the Gulf each day,” said Roger Scheuermann, HWCG Commercial Director. “Mutual aid enables members to draw upon the collective technical expertise, assets and resources of the group in the event of an incident. Utilizing staffed and working vessels, drilling and production equipment helps ensure there is no down time for staffing or testing equipment readiness in a crisis situation.”

In accordance with the plan, all 15 member companies were activated for this incident through the HWCG notification system.

For the safety of personnel and equipment, a Unified Command comprised of BSEE, the US Coast Guard, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinators Office and Noble Energy decided to temporarily hold operations May 2 and 3 due to rough weather over the Gulf of Mexico. The safety of personnel remained a top priority throughout the exercise.

Since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, BSEE has worked to implement the most aggressive and comprehensive offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms in the nation’s history. This deepwater containment drill tested one critical component of enhanced drilling safety requirements.

Press Release, May 8, 2013: Source

UK: PEMEX E&P and BP to Share Technology, Expertise for Deepwater Well Cap

Petroleos Mexicanos Exploration and Production (PEMEX E&P) and BP today announced an agreement for BP to share the technical information it used to build its global deepwater well-capping equipment.

Under the Technology License Agreement, BP will make available technical information that PEMEX E&P, one of four subsidiaries of PEMEX, can use, in addition to PEMEX E&P initiatives already in place, if it decides to build and maintain its own well capping system for use in Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, BP has agreed to conduct workshops in Houston to brief PEMEX E&P on the technical information and operational aspects of the system, as well as to introduce PEMEX E&P specialists to key vendors and fabricators that BP used to develop its global deepwater well cap and tooling package.

“The agreement marks another step forward in PEMEX E&P’s ongoing efforts to help protect the rich Gulf of Mexico environment in which we operate, as well as to apply state-of-the-art technology as we develop Mexico’s deepwater oil and natural gas resources,” said Carlos Morales, president of PEMEX Exploration and Production.

Richard Morrison, BP’s Head of Global Deepwater Response, said the agreement underscores BP’s commitment to sharing lessons learned during and following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and response.

“Today’s announcement builds on our commitment and the work we have done — and continue to do — to help advance global deepwater response capabilities around the world,” he said.

“We are pleased to provide PEMEX E&P with access to our recent technological innovation and information so that operators in both the USA and Mexico areas of the Gulf of Mexico can be equipped to respond to a subsea well control incident in the Gulf of Mexico.”

BP’s global deepwater well cap is a 100-ton stack of valves that can be lowered onto a leaking well to halt the flow. The system can operate in 10,000 feet of water and is rated to pressures of 15,000 pounds per square inch. Stored in Houston, it can be sent by heavy-lift aircraft to any country where BP operates in a matter of days.

Under the Technology License Agreement, BP will share at no cost to PEMEX E&P technical information on BP’s capping stack, and PEMEX E&P has agreed to make any future advancements to this well-capping technology available at no cost to BP. BP will retain intellectual property rights, so it can continue to share the plans with others.

BP, which has had a presence in Mexico for around 50 years, has collaborated with PEMEX E&P through a variety of non-commercial technology, scientific and training mutual cooperation agreements over the last decade. Those have resulted in hundreds of workshops, seminars and exchanges to share best practices and technological expertise.

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SMU Report: Permitting delays & new regs stifling offshore drilling

Rig workers, like Robert Cornett, right, pause while mopping the decks on the Hercules 251. (Photo: Smiley N. Pool, Houston Chronicle)

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The offshore drilling industry is still rebounding from a five-month moratorium and new regulations after the 2010 Gulf oil spill, with consumers paying the price at the pump, according to a new report being released today.

The findings buck the conventional wisdom about a recent resurgence in offshore drilling that has caused a spike in demand for workers and a run on rigs to drill new wells.

Drilling contractors, including Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., Noble Corp., and Rowan Cos., say they are seeing strong demand for their rigs. Energy analysts predict 10 more will float into the Gulf this year. And the number of active offshore rigs in the United States was higher at the end of April 2012 than the average total in 2009, the year before the spill (the economic decline had driven down demand that year).

But according to the new analysis, conducted by the Southern Methodist University Cox Maguire Energy Institute, high rig counts, the numbers of federal permits to drill new wells and other positive stats mask problems that could mean suppressed oil and gas production for years to come.

The study was commissioned by the Gulf Economic Survival Team, which has been lobbying for swifter permitting of offshore projects.

Read more: Fuel Fix » SMU Report: Permitting delays & new regs stifling offshore drilling.

Repsol Drills Duster Offshore Cuba

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Spanish oil titan Repsol on Friday announced it would plug and abandon an exploration well offshore Cuba.

Repsol’s well in Cuba’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was drilled by the Scarabeo 9, a 6th generation semi submersible drilling rig.

The Saipem-owned rig failed to find hydrocarbons, and Repsol’s spokesman told BusinesWeek that the result is disappointing but not unusual saying that every four of five offshore wells turn out to be a dry hole.

He said that the Spanish company was analyzing the data collected before making any further decisions.

Scarabeo 9, capable of operating in water depths of up to 3,600 meters, was built by Singapore’s Keppel specifically for this campaign.

Due to the United States trading embargo against Cuba, Repsol had to come up with a rig with almost no U.S. made parts in it, and according to Reuters, the only U.S. manufactured part on the Scarabeo 9 rig is a blowout preventer, a part that malfunctioned and caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Source

Pemex Ready to Drill in GOM’s Deep Waters

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by  Dow Jones Newswires
Laurence Iliff
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MEXICO CITY – Mexico‘s state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, is ready to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico near the maritime border with the U.S., its head of production said Tuesday.

Pemex has in place high-tech drilling platforms, safety systems and membership in a well-containment group as part of redundant measures to prevent and control an oil leak, Carlos Morales Gil said at a news conference.

Pemex has complied with the requirements of Mexico’s watchdog National Hydrocarbons Commission, or CNH, he added.

“Yes, we’re going to Perdido this year, in a few months,” Morales said, referring to the hydrocarbon formation already being drilled on the U.S. side. “And, yes, we are in compliance with all of the requirements.”

The CNH chief, Juan Carlos Zepeda, said recently that he didn’t think Pemex was prepared for the challenges of drilling deep-water wells–those at depths exceeding 6,000 feet. Zepeda had said that Pemex wasn’t in compliance with the CNH because the oil company hadn’t yet been accepted into a well-containment group.

Zepeda’s warnings followed the Deepwater Horizon blowout, which killed 11 workers in April 2010 and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Pemex had its own blowout in the shallow waters of the Gulf in 1979 that spilled oil for months and fouled beaches in Texas.

Morales said Tuesday that Pemex has detailed seismic information of the Perdido area where it plans to drill, and that the oil monopoly has been training its own people and contracting international crews.

Furthermore, Pemex has received word that it is being accepted into the Helix Well Containment Group, he said, a U.S. consortium that inherited and improved some of the equipment used to cap the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Pemex is leasing three of the current generation of drilling platforms, according to Morales, with multiple safety systems. In the event of a blowout or leaking well, Pemex could drill a relief well relatively quickly because it has the three high-tech platforms in the Gulf and could move one or more.

On Monday, Pemex said it had a net loss of 23.8 billion pesos ($1.7 billion) in the fourth quarter as it paid more to the federal government in taxes and royalties than a year earlier, and had foreign exchange losses as a result of a weaker Mexican peso.

Pemex said sales in the final quarter of the year rose 22.5% from the fourth quarter of 2010 to MXN420.3 billion, thanks to higher world oil prices. The higher crude prices–$104.40 per barrel compared with $70.80 a year ago–were partially offset by lower export volume, which fell 10.5% to 1.339 million barrels a day, Pemex said in a filing with the local stock exchange.

Source

Drilling permit slowdown having effect on St. Tammany businesses

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By Debbie Glover
St. Tammany News
Published on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 12:09 AM CST

St. Tammany Parish may seem an unlikely place for the drilling permit slowdown to affect business, but the 2010 BP oil spill and now delays from the permit moratorium and lack of permitting for deep water and shallow wells in the Gulf of Mexico are doing just that..

“Absolutely, St. Tammany has many businesses directly and indirectly connected to the oil industry, and they are affected by the industry slowdown caused by the permitting delays,” said Executive Director Brenda Reine Bertus of St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation.

“Some of the parish’s businesses service rigs, some rehab products used on rigs and many are tucked away in the parish. During the study completed by GNO Inc., it was evident many are simply trying to hold on until things turn around,” she said.

Suppliers of rigs, oil supply boats, caterers and equipment already know how hard hit they are, but this has been confirmed by the release of a study of the impact of decreased drilling permit approvals on businesses conducted by Greater New Orleans Inc.

“Offshore service and supply companies are the core of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana,” said Lizette Terral, president of the New Orleans region for the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank. “These small- and mid-sized companies are dependent on activity in the Gulf for their business, and as a result they have been disproportionally hurt by the ongoing permit slowdown.”

Participants in the survey represented small, medium, and large offshore supply and service companies in numerous industries. Answers provided included details on the revenue, cash reserves, employment, business plans, and personal finances of their respective companies.

Key findings of the study show that 46 percent of businesses have moved all or some of their operations away from the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, 41 percent of businesses are not making a profit. Most, or 76 percent have lost cash reserves, and 27 percent of businesses have lost more than half of their cash reserves.

Half of the businesses have laid off employees, and 39 percent of businesses have retained workers but have reduced their hours and/or salaries.

Worst of all, 82 percent of business owners have lost personal savings as a result of the permit slowdown. Another 13 percent have lost all of their savings.

Small– and mid-sized companies are the hidden victims of the permit moratorium and ensuing slowdown,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO, Inc. “While global companies can simply shift their assets, these Louisiana companies — through no fault of their own — have endured significant, and now documented, financial hardships.”

“Through this study, GNO, Inc. has determined that the federal moratorium and the permit slowdown created significant negative “unintended consequences” for local businesses. While larger companies have deep cash reserves and the ability to shift assets outside of the country, Louisiana businesses dependent on the Gulf of Mexico for business have experienced significant financial hardship,” reported GNO, Inc.

“The smaller companies are digging into their personal cash reserves to keep going because many of these job require specialized training. In the 1980’s when there was an industry slowdown, the employees left and were very difficult to replace when business increased,” Bertus said. “They want to keep these specialized employees at all costs. Another problem is that the really small companies can’t just pick up and move elsewhere like larger companies.”

In 2011, the average approval time for a drilling plan was 109 days, compared to the historical average of 61 days. All deep-water plans that include any type of drilling activity must now undergo an environmental assessment (EA) process; for those plans requiring EAs in 2011, the average approval time was 213 days, significantly higher than the overall average approval time. Additionally, in 2011, only 34 percent of plans submitted were approved, compared to the historical 73.4 percent approval rate.

Deep-water permit issuance continues to lag the monthly average observed in the year prior to the oil spill. Only two deep-water permits are being issued per month since November 2011, representing a monthly reduction of 3.8 permits, or 66 percent reduction from the average of 5.8 permits per month. This number also represents a five permit or a 71 percent reduction from the historical average of seven permits per month over the past three years.

Shallow-water permit issuance is also below the historical average. Since November 2011, 2.3 shallow water permits, on average, were issued. That number represents a decrease of 4.8 permits or 68 percent from the monthly average of 7.1 permits per month observed in the year prior to the oil spill. This number also represents a reduction of 12.4 permits or a 84 percent reduction from the historical average of 14.7 permits per month over the past three years, according to the gulf permit index.

A lack of permit approval can be taken as a lack of future business in the industry and many small and mid-size businesses have been hit hard with possible lack of future business as they had known it before the oil spill, thus causing many of them to either relocate or close completely, as the study has shown.

The permitting process has become lengthy and mired in red tape, which has slowed the entire industry, affecting businesses throughout the area, even in St. Tammany.

Source

‘The new normal’

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Daily Advertiser

Oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico will some day return to pre-BP spill levels, the president of Chevron North America Exploration and Production Company, Gary Luquette said Thursday.

But the rigorous permitting, safety and verification requirements imposed after the April 2010 BP disaster are here to stay, Gary Luquette said during an interview with The Daily Advertiser before the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce annual banquet, where he was keynote speaker.

“It’s a new normal,” Luquette said.

The industry hasn’t found its stride since the Deepwater Horizon platform operated by BP off the coast of Louisiana exploded and sunk, creating the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

That disaster, which killed 11 workers, led the federal government to impose a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling that was followed by more stringent permitting and safety regulations.

“I think activity levels can and will return to pre-Macondo (spill) levels,” he said. “The effort and rigor in getting permits approved won’t return.”

Luquette said that’s a good thing for Louisiana and the industry. The BP disaster tainted the entire industry.

Tighter permitting, regulations and oversight will help the industry rebuild public trust, he said.

The “new normal” may be too costly for some of the small independent companies to survive, Luquette said.

“In the end,” he said, “the standards are going up. It’s your responsibility to enact them.”

The Gulf of Mexico is still a major source of oil and natural gas and Chevron maintains a presence there, in deepwater and shallow water, said Luquette, a 1978 civil engineering graduate of UL Lafayette.

More than half of the company’s 2012 budget is allocated to Gulf of Mexico activity. Today, Chevron has 10 rigs operating in shallow water, he said.

Lafayette plays an important role in the industry with numerous supply and service companies operating here.

Chevron alone has 300 workers in its Lafayette office and another 300 or so working offshore out of the Lafayette office, Luquette said.

President Obama said last week in his State of the Union address that he wants to end “subsidies” to the oil and gas industry which makes billions of dollars in profits. Luquette said the energy industry creates jobs and creates wealth for the federal government.

In 2011, the oil and gas industry paid $86 million a day to the federal government in royalties, rents and tax revenue, he said. The industry also employs more than nine million either directly or indirectly.

The industry doesn’t need bailouts and such, just a level-playing field, the same so-called subsidies and breaks the federal government provides other U.S. industries and those from foreign nations, Luquette said.

Source

Hercules sees more rigs in GOM

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Hercules Offshore expects to end the year with more rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, as the top shallow-water driller in the region looks to cash in on higher day rates, a report said.

News wires  26 January 2012 05:42 GMT

Day rates could rise further as oil majors ramp up spending in the Gulf of Mexico after the government eased up restrictions on drilling permits that were imposed following the Macondo oil spill, chief executive John Rynd told Reuters in an interview.

“As we exit 2012, we may be running 19 or 20 rigs versus the current 18 (in the Gulf of Mexico),” said Rynd, who joined Hercules in 2005 after working with peers like Rowan Co and the drilling unit of Noble Corp.

A total of about 40 shallow-water rigs are active in the region and all of them are contracted, he added.

Houston-based Hercules has been commanding day rates of about $55,000 on average. The cost of renting a rig by the day has risen about $20,000 in the last one year.

“The rates are stable… we have a positive outlook for 2012,” Rynd said.

Activity in Gulf of Mexico is picking up after the 2010 oil spill brought drilling there to a standstill and higher oil prices are boosting exploration work in the region.

Oilfield services leader Schlumberger expects rig count in the Gulf of Mexico to top the level seen prior to the BP disaster, later in the year.

Rynd said Hercules is still in talks with Petroleos Mexicanos regarding its jack-up rigs. The Mexican state oil company did not renew contracts for two Hercules rigs following an accident in 2008.

The company, which is valued at about $618 million, caters to Chevron and Apache in the US Gulf and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) in India.

Hercules shares were trading up 2% at $4.57 on Wednesday afternoon on the Nasdaq.

The stock has gained nearly two-thirds of its value in the October-December quarter, outperforming the broader S&P Oil & Gas Drilling Sub-Industry Index, which has grown 21% during the period.

Published: 26 January 2012 05:42 GMT  | Last updated: 26 January 2012 05:45 GMT

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