Libya: BP to Start Drilling By October


DUBAI—U.K. oil giant BP PLC is expected to start its deep water drilling operations in Libya by October at the latest, Libya’s top oil official said Monday.

“They are delaying because of technical problems, they want to be assured that all the instruments are working well and they don’t want a repeat of Macondo—it may take another two months at most,” Shokri Ghanem, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corp., or NOC, told Zawya Dow Jones by telephone.

BP’s plans to drill at least five wells in Libya’s Gulf of Sirte, at depths greater than the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, have some people worried about a similar ecological disaster.

Earlier this month BP said it had pushed back the start date for its exploration for oil in deep water offshore Libya for an unspecified period of time to ensure all its plans are in order but insisted the drilling will be safe.

A spokesman for BP said Monday the oil major aims to start drilling in Libya during the second half of 2010 but wouldn’t give a specific date.

“We are still working through the detailed planning of preparation in order to drill our first well offshore and we expect to begin drilling in the second half of this year,” BP spokesman Mark Salt said.

BP and the Libyan authorities have said they have the resources to deal with a medium-sized spill, and if a larger incident did occur BP has a contract with the world’s largest oil-spill-response center, based in Southampton in the U.K., should they be required.

Libya is already a major oil producer, but the bulk of that comes from onshore or shallow water facilities. It has little experience supervising the risks of deep water drilling. Despite the looming deadline for drilling to commence, Libya is the only Mediterranean country aside from Croatia not to have a contingency plan in place for handling an oil spill in its waters.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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