BP to start Libya deepwater oil drilling soon
* To drill first well in next few weeks
* BP says has undertaken extensive and rigorous preparations
* Libya's NOC chairman happy for drilling to go ahead
By Alex Lawler
LONDON, July 1 (Reuters) - BP Plc <BP.L), striving to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, is soon to start deepwater drilling offshore Libya, where authorities say they are happy for the company to go ahead.
The well, in the Gulf of Sirte in the Mediterranean, is the first to be drilled under a $900 million deal BP signed with Libya in 2007, which it described at the time as its largest single exploration commitment.
"We're planning our first drilling there fairly soon. It's in the next few weeks and we've got a five-well commitment and we plan to drill two wells back to back," said BP spokesman David Nicholas on Thursday.
"The first one is planned to be in something like 5,700 feet of water."
Deepwater drilling is under the spotlight because of the spill from a BP-owned well in the Gulf of Mexico. Washington is debating this week on tougher legislation that will impact the offshore drilling industry. [ID:nN30229965]
The water depth of the Libyan well is deeper than the approximately 5,000 feet beneath which Transocean Ltd's rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig exploded and sank, triggering the spill.
London-based BP is using a rig owned and operated by Noble (NE.N) for the Libyan well and says it has prepared extensively for the operation.
"Just like with any deepwater exploration activity, we have undertaken extensive, rigorous and detailed preparations with our contractors and by ourselves for this drilling," Nicholas said.
"The investigation is still ongoing into exactly what happened in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. But any of the lessons coming out of those investigations will be applied to all of our operations worldwide."
BP signed the exploration and production agreement with Libya's National Oil Corp in 2007, after the lifting of international sanctions on Libya removed legal barriers to doing business in the North African country.
Libya has said it is happy for the drilling to go ahead.
"If you have an air crash you don't stop air travel in the whole world," said Shokri Ghanem, NOC chairman, last month. He said the spill in the Gulf was "exaggerated somewhat." (Editing by James Jukwey)