COPENHAGEN, June 1 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil and gas group Statoil (STL.OL) said on Tuesday it was preparing to stop drilling at two deepwater Gulf of Mexico prospects to comply with a temporary stoppage ordered by the U.S. government.
Washington last week ordered a temporary halt to 33 exploration rigs as part of a broader response to the BP (BP.L) oil spill, casting a shadow over companies’ efforts to tap new petroleum resources off the coast of the United States.
Statoil will stop drilling at its Krakatoa prospect in the Mississippi Canyon and at its Tucker prospect in the Walker Ridge area in the Gulf, a Statoil official said.
“These are the two where we are the operator, and we will have to temporarily halt the drilling after first drilling down to a level where it is safe to stop,” Statoil spokeswoman Kjersti Morstoel said.
“We have a dialogue with the U.S. authorities to decide how and when we can do this, and it is too early to say how long it will take,” she said.
How far down to drill before it is safe to stop depends from well to well, she added.
Transocean’s (RIG.N) drillship Discoverer Americas is working for Statoil on Krakatoa and Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk’s (MAERSKb.CO) Maersk Developer semi-submersible rig is drilling on Tucker, Morstoel said.
Morstoel declined to estimate the financial impact or to say who would bear the cost of such a stoppage -- Statoil as the charterer of the rigs or the rig owners.
“We are in a dialogue with all parties on those matters,” she said.
A Maersk spokeswoman said the four-year charter for its rig remains in effect despite the stoppage.
Statoil also has stakes in other deepwater Gulf of Mexico exploration projects where it is not the operator, but Morstoel said Statoil would leave it to the operators of those projects to communicate about them. (Reporting by John Acher; additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; editing by James Jukwey)