So far, the worries of massive oilfield layoffs and rigs moving out of the Gulf of Mexico en masse as a result of the deepwater drilling moratorium have not come to pass. In fact, now that the BP oil well is plugged with mud and 75 percent of spilled Gulf oil gone (the latter according to the White House), rig workers are readying for a return to work in the Gulf of Mexico. That, despite what is still a high level of uncertainty about when the drilling ban will be lifted.

Some rigs have already moved, and others are eyeing distant waters, but drilling contractors, among which are the two largest operating in the Gulf, say they are focused on getting their existing rigs in the Gulf to meet the Obama administration’s new blowout preventer standards so that Gulf work can resume, The Times-Picayune reports:
“Most of the discussions we’ve had about the readiness to resume work during this period of suspension has been around ... maintaining crews and the capability of equipment to go back to work as quickly as possible,” Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean, the largest offshore drilling contractor in the world and in the Gulf, said Thursday. “So setting aside the process we are going through to comply with NTL-05 (Notice to Lessee), the rigs are ready to go back to work, and the customers are similarly in a position where they have kept all their capability intact as well. So I would think it would be a relatively timely resumption of activity.”

Newman spoke Thursday in a conference call the day after Transocean — which has 14 rigs in the Gulf — released its second-quarter earnings. His status report was consistent with that made in a July 20 conference call by David Williams, chairman, president and CEO of Noble Corporation, the second-biggest drilling contractor in the deepwater Gulf, with seven rigs, including one recently purchased from Frontier Drilling.
The six-month drilling ban is still set to expire no sooner than Nov. 30, but the new head of the federal agency responsible for permitting offshore drilling says it could end sooner. Michael Bromwich has maintained that he may be persuaded to end the ban if he is convinced work can resume safely, after he concludes a series of fact-finding hearings.

Read the T-P story here.

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