Shell preparing plans to meet requirements for Gulf of Mexico
WASHINGTON: Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe's biggest oil company, is preparing three exploration plans to meet new requirements for deep-water wells in the Gulf of Mexico after the U.S. lifted a drilling ban, a spokeswoman said today.
Statoil ASA, the Nordic region's biggest energy producer, has filed applications for two new wells since the moratorium ended on Oct. 12, Tony Dore, head of Statoil's exploration unit in North America, said on Dec. 10.
Drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet (152 meters) remains idle more than two months after President Barack Obama ended the moratorium as regulators review compliance with environmental and safety rules imposed after BP Plc's Macondo oil-well blast. The U.S. received three applications for new wells subject to regulations introduced after the spill, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.
"It does remain to be seen how long it's going to take to get permits approved," Erik Milito, the upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute, said today in a phone interview from Washington. "The companies have the ability to move forward in a safe, environmentally responsible manner."
"Future drilling permits must first wait on approved exploration plans," Kelly op de Weegh, a spokeswoman for The Hague-based Shell, said in an email today.
Shell operated five rigs, more than any other company, in deep waters when Obama halted the activity following the Macondo explosion, the Interior Department said. The blast killed 11 workers, spewed crude for 87 days and shut a third of the Gulf to commercial fishing.
"The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement received three applications for new wells subject to regulations introduced after the spill," said Melissa Schwartz, spokeswoman for the agency. "Only one of these permits is for activity that was suspended under the moratorium, and has been returned to the operator because it was incomplete."
The agency also returned 11 other permits that were submitted to the agency prior to the lifting of the moratorium, Schwartz said.
The moratorium cut Shell's Gulf output by 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, Simon Henry, chief financial officer for the company, said on an Oct. 28 conference call.
According to a separate news item, Research In Motion Ltd. has surged 38 percent since August on prospects for its new tablet device. That may be too big a jump given the product is late to a market led by Apple Inc.'s iPad, say analysts who are cutting ratings.
Sales estimates for the BlackBerry PlayBook vary from 1 million units next fiscal year to 8 million as analysts try to predict demand for a computer that won't emerge until the first quarter and will also face other rivals besides Apple.
"It'll be a modest seller and the iPad will likely do 10 times as much," said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Bros. in San Francisco, who cut his RIM rating to "hold" Nov. 9. He estimates RIM will sell 1 million PlayBooks next year at most.
The tablet will show whether RIM can find growth beyond the BlackBerry handset, which is losing users to Apple's iPhone and devices that use Google Inc.'s Android software. PlayBook sales may reach $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent of the $22.8 billion in revenue analysts predict for RIM next year. The calculation is based on the median of 17 estimates in a Bloomberg survey for RIM to sell 2.55 million tablets at an average price of $430.
At least six analysts have reduced their rating on RIM shares in the past six weeks, and fewer than half of those tracked by Bloomberg now recommend buying. -Bloomberg