BP set for 1st deep drilling in Gulf since spill

The April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico set off a series of headaches for the Obama administration throughout the summer of 2010. In the wake of multiple failed attempts to plug the leak, the administration faced widespread criticism not only for misjudging the scope of the problem (it was the largest accidental oil spill in American history) but also for a response some viewed as slow and error-filled. By July, the leak had finally been plugged, but the aftermath - political and environmental - may linger for years.
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U.S. officials have given BP the go-ahead to drill a new deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico, its first such permit since last year's catastrophic oil spill.

Regulators said Wednesday BP has met strict safety requirements implemented after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The proposed exploratory well is located roughly 246 miles (395 kilometers) south of Lafayette, Louisiana, in water more than 6,000 feet (1,828 meters) deep. That's about 1,000 feet (304 meters) deeper than BP's Macondo well that blew out in April 2010, killing 11 rig workers and leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

This is BP's first permit to drill, but the company has been active in the Gulf for months.

Other companies have also received deepwater permits in recent months.

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The oil spill off Louisiana spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude from an undersea well owned by BP. The disaster caused billions of dollars in damage to hundreds of miles of coastline and wreaked havoc on the Gulf economy.

A key federal released in last month put responsibility firmly on BP for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history and the deaths of 11 rig workers, especially regarding the cement seal that was put in place the day before the explosion that triggered the spill.

The report, released Wednesday, said in the days leading up to the disaster, BP made a series of decisions that complicated cementing operations, added risk, and may have contributed to the ultimate failure of the cement job.

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Other companies also shared some of the blame, according to the report, which noted that Transocean, as owner of the Deepwater Horizon, was responsible for conducting safe operations and for protecting personnel onboard.

The report said BP, and in some cases its contractors, violated seven federal regulations at the time of the incident. They include the failure to take necessary precautions to keep the well under control at all times, to perform a cement job that kept the oil and gas down hole, and to maintain the blowout preventer — which is supposed to lock in place to prevent a spill in case of an explosion — in accordance with industry-accepted practice.

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The details were contained in the final report from an investigation team of the U.S. Coast Guard and the agency that regulates offshore drilling. The panel held hearings in the year following the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement investigation was among the most exhaustive.

Several earlier expert reports and inquires found that BP and its contractors missed and ignored warning signs prior the massive oil well blowout in the Gulf that began last April. A November report found an "insufficient consideration of risk" and raised questions about the know-how of key personnel.

The National Academy of Engineering said the companies failed to learn from "near misses" and neither BP, its contractors nor federal regulators caught or corrected flawed decisions that contributed to the blowout