Get ready for the microscope boys

nterior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters this afternoon that the Obama Administration is ordering a moratorium on all off-shore oil and gas drilling activity from floating drilling rigs until the President’s commission on the BP incident has completed a more thorough review. At the same time, he said his agency is working to strengthen safety and oversight measures for deep water oil and gas exploration. The moratorium applies to wells in waters above a depth of 500 feet, including 33 deep water rigs that had been permitted in the Gulf of Mexico. Wells that have already started drilling are required to halt operations at the first safe stopping point and then take steps to secure the well.

The move comes as part of the Secretary’s 30-day review of the Deep Water Horizon drill explosion, requested by the President, which focuses on the two primary failures of the drilling process that that led to the disaster.

“One: the loss of well-control. And two: the failure of the blow out preventer mechanism,” Salazar explained.

Secretary Salazar said they are still investigating what went wrong on April 20th at the Deep Water Horizon rig, but the initial findings reveal that a number of problems occurred. He pointed to issues with the rig’s cementing, casing or perhaps both, which he said could have caused the blow out in the first place. Once the blow out occurred, Salazar said the blow out prevention mechanism did not work and that there are a host of questions around why it failed.

To address these concerns, Salazar said the administration is taking the following steps:

  • require certification of all blow out preventers
  • stronger well control
  • blow out prevention and intervention procedures
  • tougher inspections for deep water drilling operations
  • expanded safety and training programs for rig workers

“Some of these measures we can implement immediately, others will take some time,” he said.

The moratorium also affects possible oil exploration in the outer continental shelf, postponing consideration of drilling there until 2011. Salazar said he is cancelling the proposed 2012 lease sale for drilling off the coast of Virginia, along with a lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico scheduled for this August.

“I believe we must proceed with the utmost caution as we examine the many questions the BP oil spill raises, that’s why we are pausing deepwater drilling and examine our systems to ensure that this type of disaster does not happen again,” he said.

Salazar said the new moratorium will not affect current production and that there is no moratorium on shallow water wells in the general application. The 591 deep water producing wells in the Gulf of Mexico, along with 4,515 shallow wells will be allowed to continue to harvest oil and natural gas.

  • Yunji de Nies

So I am not loosing my mind - I thought that is what I heard today when O was talking Thursday afternoon. Now my concern is what effect will this have on vessel contracts and careers? At a [U]minimum[/U] I figure 2 vessels per rig, so that could possibly mean 66 vessels without work. Will they P & A or just standby waiting for the word to continue?

I’ve seen on the news talk of drilling a relief wlel or two when they do drill for oil; this could increase the jobs available in a big way…we’ll see.

A group of technical experts who advised the Obama administration on how to bolster the safety of offshore drilling operations say they [B]oppose the administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling. [/B]
Halting the work risks “harming thousand of workers” who “were and are active responsibly and are providing a product the nation demands,” they said.
The eight experts - all longtime petroleum engineers, some affiliated with major universities - are listed in a report published by the Interior Department last month as having “peer reviewed” Interior Secretary [B]Ken Salazar[/B]’s recommendations on improving the safety of drilling on the outer continental shelf in the wake of the April 20 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
[B]In a statement releasedat a Senate hearing Wednesday, the experts say they never agreed to the administration’s six-month moratorium[/B] on exploratory drilling on the outer continental shelf, including operations that had already been granted government permits. The experts said[B] the language about the moratorium did not appear in the draft they had reviewed.[/B]
“This tragedy had very specific causes. A blanket moratorium will have the indirect effect of harming thousands of workers and further impact state and local economies suffering from the spill. We would in effect be punishing a large swath of people who were and are acting responsibly and are providing a product the nation demands,” the statement said.
Signers included [B]Kenneth Arnold[/B], a member of the National Academy of Engineers; [B]Robert Bea[/B], a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and [B]Benton Baugh[/B], president of Radoil Inc., a maker of oilfield and subsea products.
At a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Salazar said he “appreciated” the advice from the experts but that “it was not their decision on the moratorium — it was my decision and the president’s decision.”
A Salazar spokeswoman acknowledged the experts “were not asked to review or comment on the proposed moratorium and that they peer-reviewed the report on a technical basis.” She added the moratorium was based on “the need for a comprehensive review of safety in deepwater operations in light of the BP oil spill.”
Republican Rep. [B]Bill Cassidy [/B](R., La.) seized on the engineers’ statement, calling it “further proof that [B][Obama] administration policy is guided by emotion and politics, not facts.” [/B]
“Thousands of Louisianans are going to be out of work because the president wanted a get-tough headline,” he said.