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BP asks to resume drilling in gulf

Other firms have gotten US permits

Transocean’s Development Driller III drilled a relief well at the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to stem the flow of the oil spill in June. Transocean’s Development Driller III drilled a relief well at the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to stem the flow of the oil spill in June. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/File 2010)
By Julia Werdigier and John M. Broder
New York Times / April 4, 2011

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LONDON — BP has asked US regulators for permission to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, two company officials with direct knowledge of the application said yesterday.

The petition comes less than 15 months after a rig BP leased there exploded, causing a huge oil spill and killing 11 workers.

BP is seeking permission to continue drilling at 10 existing deep-water wells in the region in July in exchange for adhering to stricter safety and supervisory rules, said one of the officials. An agreement covering existing wells could be reached within the month but would not include new drilling, the official said.

The other official said, “We’re making progress but it’s not a yes yet.’’ Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks on a possible agreement were continuing.

Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was halted last summer after the accident involving BP’s Macondo well, which spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean. The ban was lifted in October.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the agency that overseas development of resources in the gulf, said yesterday there was no deal with BP. A BP spokesman declined to comment.

The regulator had recently started to permit some deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Royal Dutch Shell won approval on Wednesday to drill off the coast of Louisiana on the condition that rigorous new safety standards were met. Other companies that have been allowed to continue drilling in the region include Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and BHP Billiton.

Granting permission to BP would be more controversial because the British oil company is still paying for costs related to the oil spill, the cleanup, and the continuing civil and criminal investigations into the accident.

The Obama administration has spent 11 months dealing with the aftermath of the Macondo well blowout and writing new rules to try to prevent similar accidents. But last week President Obama, in a major statement on energy policy, said the administration was seeking increased domestic oil production, both onshore and off, as a means of reducing dependence on imported oil.