HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration has ordered a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling while an investigation determines the cause of the April 20 well blowout that occurred on a rig operated by BP Plc in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico offshore Louisiana and revises offshore safety regulations to prevent a future recurrence.
On Friday, oil service firm Baker Hughes reported that the number of active rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico dropped in half to 23 from the previous week. A year ago, 51 rigs were active in the gulf.
The April 20 explosion killed 11 workers and the runaway well has become the largest U.S. spill in history. The leak is not expected to be fully stopped until a relief well can be completed in August.
As much as 19,000 barrels of oil (800,000 gallons, or 3 million liters) is estimated to be leaking into the gulf each day. By comparison, the U.S. consumes about 834,000 barrels of oil a day, or 14,000 barrels each minute.
Oil production from the Gulf of Mexico accounted for nearly a third of U.S. domestic production and 11 percent of natural gas production last year, meaning a lengthy disruption in gulf drilling could increase the nation’s dependence on imported oil, according to economists.
The following data on U.S. offshore activity comes from the U.S. Interior Department’s May 27 report recommending a series of changes to offshore drilling to improve safety and from the website of the agency’s Minerals Management Service.
- A total of 331 wells were drilled in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009; more than 50,000 wells have been drilled in federal water in the gulf since 1947. Federal water can vary by state, but is generally at least three miles offshore.
- The Gulf of Mexico has 7,000 active leases, 64 percent of which are in deepwater, defined as greater than 1,000 feet.
- 2009 gulf production in state and federal water was 1.6 million barrels per day and accounted for 31 percent of total domestic oil production. Gulf natural gas production equaled 11 percent of 2009 domestic gas production.
- Nearly 4,000 wells have been drilled in gulf water depth in excess of 1,000 feet and 700 wells in all federal water 5,000 feet or greater;
- 80 percent of offshore oil production and 45 percent of natural gas production came from deepwater in 2009;
- Deepwater offshore oil production surpassed shallow water production in 2001.
- In 2009, federal offshore leasing revenue was $6 billion.
- All U.S. offshore operations provide direct employment estimated at 150,000 jobs.
- Since 1953, the federal government has collected $200 billion from lease bonuses, fees and royalty payments from all offshore operators.
- Over the past 45 years, 17.5 billion barrels of crude oil and condensate have been produced in federal offshore waters, while 532,000 barrels have been spilled; meaning 30.3 barrels have spilled per 1 million barrels produced;
- The number of spills jumped during the 2000-2009 decade to 72 from 15 in the 1990s and the amount of oil spilled jumped to 18,000 barrels from 2,000 barrels in the 1990s.
- Seven offshore blowouts occurred in federal waters from 1964 to 1970 that resulted in spills exceeding 1,000 barrels. Since 1971, blowout events have resulted in only 1,800 barrels of spilled oil.
Compiled by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by Walter Bagley