Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is GOM drilling moratorium hurting or helping rig safety?

The International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) is urging its members to contact federal lawmakers to convey IADC’s dismay regarding the blanket suspension of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

IADC Chairman Louis A. Raspino said uncertainty from Washington, DC, regarding deepwater drilling threatens the future of the US offshore drilling industry. Raspino, chief executive officer and president of Pride International Inc., spoke during an IADC town hall meeting in Houston on July 7.

The Interior Department imposed a 6-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the gulf following an Apr. 20 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig, which was working for BP PLC and partners on the Macondo well in 5,000 ft of water on Mississippi Canyon Block 252.

“Just about every rig sitting in the gulf right now is trying to find a way out of the gulf,” Raspino said. A federal judge in New Orleans issued a temporary injunction that effectively blocks the drilling moratorium, but the federal government is appealing that ruling to the appeals court.

Raspino and others speaking at the meeting all emphasized the importance of rig safety, but they also suggested that the motivation behind the moratorium was more about anti-drilling politics than it was about rig safety.

The moratorium is more likely to reduce safety than to improve safety, said Tom E. Williams, a member of a team of scientists advising Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Williams is managing director of Nautilus International LLC.

Several others at the town hall meeting emphasized that the US has higher environmental standards and drilling safety regulations than do many other countries.

“The national security issue is not even being discussed,” in Washington, Raspino said regarding the likelihood that a decrease in US drilling will contribute to higher US dependence upon imported oil.

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