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Report: BP to restart deepwater drilling in Gulf

The deepwater horizon oil rig burns on Wednesday (AP file)
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns April 21, 2010, after an explosion. The disaster killed 11 workers.AP file
/ Source: staff and news service reports

In a deal with U.S. regulators, BP this summer plans to restart deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on 10 wells in exchange for tougher safety rules, British media reported Sunday.

The London-based oil giant promised to abide by rules that are stricter than guidelines set after the April 20, 2010, blast on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers, The Financial Times and The Sunday Times of London reported. The accident, which released almost 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was the largest marine spill in U.S. history.

BP confirmed it had provided very detailed plans, the U.K. Press Association said Sunday.

The terms reportedly also include:

  • Allowing U.S. regulators 24-hour access to any of its deepwater wells.
  • No new exploratory drilling for now.

A source close to BP told the Press Association that the company "is hoping to resume drilling in the summer once it shows it can satisfy applicable regulatory conditions, as set out by the U.S. offshore regulator."

The oil slick produced by the spill, estimated to be more than 130 miles long and 70 miles wide, wreaked havoc along the coastlines of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

BP is spending at least $41 billion to clean up the spill and cover damages, but investigations and lawsuits could add to its costs.

BP hopes to resume in July drilling that was suspended after the disaster. It could seek approval for renewed exploratory drilling later in 2011, the Sunday Times reported.

The company had 10 deepwater Gulf wells in the process of being drilled when the U.S. imposed a moratorium following the disaster.

Environmental campaigner Greenpeace said that, if true, the report is "a poke in the eye not only to the environment but to investors," and a sign that despite management changes at BP little had fundamentally changed at the oil giant since the disaster.

"It has been a year now and 80 percent of that oil is still somewhere in the sea," Greenpeace spokesman Charlie Kronick told "There is nothing different about the situation now other than regulators may keep a slightly beadier eye on operations."

The report comes amid continuing pressure on the White House to reduce dependence on foreign oil and ameliorate the impact of higher oil prices, which are climbing due to demand in China and instability in some oil-producing countries in the Middle East.

The national average for a gallon of gas hit $3.619 on Friday, the highest price ever for this time of year, according to AAA and other sources. Prices have climbed 23.2 cents in the past month and more than 81 cents in the past year.

On Wednesday, by a third over 10 years, a goal that eluded his predecessors and is seen as extremely ambitious by analysts skeptical it can succeed.

In a speech that was short on details on how to curb U.S. energy demand, the president rolled out a blueprint on energy security and said the country must curb dependence on foreign oil that makes up roughly half of its daily fuel needs.

Previous presidents have made similar promises on energy imports that they failed to meet. And any new policy initiative can expect tough opposition from Republicans, who see high energy prices hurting Obama and his Democrats in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Possible charges
On April 29, The Associated Press reported that manslaughter and perjury are among possible charges that Justice Department investigators are exploring in the early stages of their probe into the Gulf oil spill.

The Justice Department is not ruling out the possibility of bringing manslaughter charges against companies or managers responsible for the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers, the AP reported citing people familiar with the inquiry.

In December, the Justice Department sued BP, oil rig owner Transocean and several other companies in the government's effort to recover billions of dollars for economic and environmental damage. BP was leasing the rig that exploded from Transocean. BP was majority owner of the well that blew out.

In January, a presidential commission found that the spill was caused by time-saving and money-saving decisions by BP, Halliburton and Transocean that created unacceptable risk.