The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved on 28 February the first deepwater drilling permit since the Macondo blowout last April. Noble Energy’s permit is for Well #2 at the Santiago prospect in Mississippi Canyon Block 519, approximately 70 miles southeast of Venice, La. The Ensco 8501 ultra-deepwater semi, which performed completion operations on the Santa Cruz and Isabela discoveries at the Galapagos project during the second half of 2010, will perform the drilling at Santiago.
“A permit for any well prohibited by the moratorium represents progress,” IADC president Dr Lee Hunt told The New York Times this week. “The question now is how quickly will they proceed to approve other permits that are awaiting approval.”
Located in 6,500 ft of water, the Santiago exploration well had previously drilled to a depth of 13,585 ft when activities were suspended on 12 June 2010. Drilling operations are anticipated to resume in late March 2011, by drilling around the plugs set in the original well when drilling was suspended. The operator is targeting a total drilling depth of approximately 19,000 ft. Results are expected by the end of May 2011.
According to the BOEMRE, Noble Energy has met new safety regulations and information requirements in NTLs N06 and N10 and the Interim Final Safety Rule. As part of the permit approval process, the bureau reviewed Noble’s containment capability available for the specific well proposed in the permit application. Noble contracted with the Helix Well Containment Group to use its capping stack to stop the flow of oil in the case of a well control event. The capabilities of the capping stack meet the requirements that are specific to the characteristics of the proposed well.
BOEMRE director Michael Bromwich said he expects “further deepwater permits to be approved in coming weeks and months based on the same process that led to the approval of this permit.”