As dead dolphins continue washing ashore in Alabama and Mississippi, a Houston-based driller won approval on Friday for resuming its deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and is “eager” to return to its operations there.
Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas Corp. was given approval on Friday by the US government to resume its final drilling phase of a well located in 4,000 feet of water 90 miles south of Venice, La.
The MC 941 #4 well is situated in the Mississippi Canyon Block of the Gulf of Mexico at the ATP Telemark Hub. It was originally drilled to 12,000 feet below the surface and cased in 2009.
Paul Bulmahn, ATP’s CEO, said: “We are ready and eager to return to work,” Hearst Newspapers reports. “ATP has always drilled safely and environmentally soundly,” Bulmahn added.
Last year’s horrific Deepwater Horizon incident is now beginning to show its deadly results on the Gulf’s biodiversity, and the new permit announcement comes on the heels of recent news revealing a record number of dead dolphins, many of them neonatal, meaning either stillborn or aborted by their mothers.
Earlier news has revealed large patches on the Gulf’s floor devoid of any sea life, with a dark sludge believed to be the reason. Final test results have yet to be released over this discovery.
The newly-issued permit is the first for a stationary deepwater facility since BP’s debacle in the Gulf caused a temporary halt to permits issued. The federal government has approved two other deepwater well permits since February 28, however they were for mobile offshore drilling units.
According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) director Michael Bromwich, ATP has proven its ability to safely operate in the Gulf of Mexico. “This permit approval demonstrates that deepwater drilling can and will continue in the Gulf of Mexico provided that operators have successfully demonstrated their ability to operate safely,” he said in a BOEMRE press release. “ Further deepwater energy development is necessary and appropriate so long as it is done safely and in an environmentally responsible manner,” he added.
In addition to continuing operations within 24 hours, ATP said it would also “immediately” begin attempts for a second well, currently suspended 12,000 feet below the ocean’s bottom, said Al Reese, Jr. ATP’s CFO, according to Hearst.
“The process for approval of the second permit should be easier, “now that we’ve gotten the first permit,” Reese said. “We know what the final pieces of the paper need to look like and (federal regulators) know what they need to look like,” he added, Hearst reports.
ATP Oil & Gas also has offshore oil and gas development operations in the Mediterraneans Sea and the North Sea.