Huge Oil Discovery in Gulf of Mexico Underscores Importance of Exploration

Rob Bluey /

 

President Obama’s decision to allow some deepwater drilling to resume in the Gulf of Mexico is already yielding impressive results. ExxonMobil announced yesterday it had discovered what amounts to 700 million barrels of oil in the Gulf — the largest find in 12 years.

The discovery comes about two months after ExxonMobil had resumed drilling under new regulations put in place by the Obama administration. The company had drilled two wells at the site prior to last year’s oil spill, but was forced to cease work when the government imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling. This new third well is 7,000 feet below water.

“This is one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in the last decade,” said Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Co.

The House Natural Resources Committee estimated the discovery would translate to 14 billion gallons of gas and more than two months of current U.S oil production.

After nearly of a year of drilling delays — first with a government-imposed moratorium and then a months-long “permitorium” — the administration has only recently begun to issue permits for deepwater wells. However, the pace still lags significantly behind the historical average, causing economic harm to the region. (Watch our videos featuring business owners Leslie Bertucci of R&D Enterprises, Randall Stilley of Seahawk Drilling, and Thomas Clements of CNC Machining and Todd Hornbeck of Hornbeck Offshore.)

New data from Greater New Orleans Inc. last week indicated that deepwater permit issuance from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is down 88 percent from the previous year’s average. The agency is approving only 0.7 deepwater permits per month.

Even shallow-water permits are down 15 percent from the historical average of 7.1 per month. The administration is currently approving six shallow-water permits per month.

Given the news of ExxonMobil’s discovery, one can only wonder how much oil production was sacrificed as a result of the moratorium and the Obama administration’s subsequent delays.

“Let’s remember that this successful project was approved and moving into location at the time the moratorium was put into place, and sat idle from 2010 through March 2011,” House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa said in response to the news. “Lost time is lost opportunity and the economic price has been paid by workers in the Gulf region and consumers at the gas pump.”

The U.S. House recently passed a trio of bills that would increase energy production that now await action in the Democrat-controlled Senate.