Thursday, June 9, 2011

Exxon makes major oil discovery in Gulf

Exxon Mobil said Wednesday it has discovered an estimated 700 million barrels of oil equivalent at a deepwater well off the Louisiana coast, a major find that a top House Republican argued should push the administration to speed up offshore permitting.

"This is one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in the last decade," Exxon Mobil Exploration Company President Steve Greenlee said in a statement.

Exxon Mobil made the discovery after the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved an application in March allowing the company to resume exploratory drilling. Drilling at the well was halted in the aftermath of last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The well is located about 250 miles south of New Orleans in about 7,000 feet of water, Exxon Mobil said.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) applauded the discovery Wednesday and argued it shows the Gulf's potential as a source of domestic oil.

"This is the exact reason why Republicans have been pressuring the Department of the Interior to issue offshore permits—America has abundant oil and natural gas reserves, we simply need to allow the hardworking men and women in the energy industry to do their job," Hastings said in a statement.

Republicans and drill-state Democrats have alleged that the Obama administration is slow-walking the issuance of Gulf drilling permits. But the administration insists that it is working diligently to approve permits under a new regulatory scheme that includes beefed-up safety and environmental standards.

BOEMRE has approved 15 deepwater permits since February, when the industry was able to show that it can contain well blowouts.