The first permit issued for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico since the Gulf oil spill in April 2010 was awarded to Texas-based Noble Energy this week. At least that is how things appeared. To be sure, Noble (NBL) will manage the day-to-day operations at the Santiago well, but a familiar, if not villainous name is also involved.
That is right. BP (BP), Europe's second-largest oil company and the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig, is the largest stakeholder in the Santiago well project with a 46.5% interest, which is double Noble's 23.25% interest.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement failed to highlight the British oil giant's involvement in the Santiago project when it awarded the permit to Noble on Monday. BP says on its Web site that it is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the U.S. The company is also the largest leaseholder in the Gulf, according to the Financial Times.
BP CEO Bob Dudley has publicly stated he is unsure about what his company's level of activity will be in the Gulf in 2011, but he said in February that BP hopes to have five rigs restarting operations in the Gulf this year, the FT reported.