March 24, 2011 / 4:55 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-US issues 1st permit to drill new well since ban ends

* Chevron to drill 216 miles offshore at depth of 6,750 ft

* Permit for field that hasn’t produced oil, natgas

(Adds comment from Chevron and offshore drilling trade group)

WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - Chevron (CVX.N) on Thursday received the first U.S. permit to drill a complete exploratory well for oil or gas in a new deepwater reservoir since the end of the drilling moratorium that followed the BP (BP.L) oil spill.

The Interior Department issued Chevron a revised permit to finish drilling a well it began in March but had to suspend in June due to the spill.

The well is in offshore tracts the company leased in the Keathley Canyon Block 736, 6,750 feet (2,057 meters) deep and about 216 miles (348 km) off the Louisiana coastline.

This will be the first exploratory well completely drilled in this field, which was has never produced oil or gas, the department said.

Initial drilling on the Chevron well began in March 2010, but operations were suspended in June due to the drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration. The permit will allow for completion of the exploratory well in the new offshore reservoir.

It is also the fifth deepwater drilling permit approved by the department since the BP oil spill.

“We are encouraged that the backlog of permit applications is slowly growing smaller, and that some of our member companies who were sidelined for the past year will soon get back to work in the Gulf,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, the trade group that represent companies involved in offshore drilling.

Chevron had to meet new safety rules imposed in the aftermath of last summer’s massive oil spill. Chevron contracted with the Marine Well Containment Corp to use its capping stack to stop major underwater oil leaks.

Reporting by Tom Doggett; additional reporting by Braden Reddall; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

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