BP aims to up Gulf of Mexico rigs to 8 from 5 in 2012-Exec

HOUSTON, April 30 Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:51am EDT

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HOUSTON, April 30 (Reuters) - BP Plc has five drilling rigs running in the Gulf of Mexico two years after its Macondo oil spill, and the company aims to add three more by the end of 2012, the company's head of development said on Monday.

Bernard Looney, executive vice president of developments at BP's London headquarters, told executives at the annual Offshore Technology Conference in Houston that the drilling will include exploratory, appraisal and production wells.

Last October, U.S. regulators granted BP its first permit to drill a new well since the largest offshore spill in U.S. history, which spewed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the basin in 2010.

The spill gushed after the Macondo well blew out, causing explosions aboard the Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 men.

The permit was for a well in BP's Kaskida field after regulators were satisfied that BP's well design and safety practices met more stringent post-spill standards.

Kaskida was a 2006 discovery that could hold up to 3 billion barrels of oil. The other permits are split between BP's established Thunder Horse and Atlantis fields.

Looney did not say where the three additional rigs would drill, but ConocoPhillips Chief Financial Officer Jeff Sheets told analysts last week that the operator of the Tiber field -- which is BP -- was "anticipating" an appraisal well this year. ConocoPhillips is a minority partner in Tiber.

BP described the Tiber discovery in late 2009 as "giant" and said it could be comparable to Kaskida. The company had aimed to drill an appraisal well in Tiber in 2010, but a months-long ban on drilling after the Macondo spill blocked that plan.

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