Noble Energy Seeks 2nd Deep-Water Gulf Drilling Permit -CEO

NEW ORLEANS(Dow Jones Newswires), March 29, 2011

Noble, which late last month received the first permit to drill in the Gulf of Mexico's deep waters since the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster, is seeking permits to drill another prospect of the coast of Louisiana, Chief Executive Charles Davidson said.

"The outlook for the deep-water Gulf of Mexico is certainly much brighter today than it was a few months ago," Davidson told investors during a conference here. "We continue to see a lot of opportunities to drill in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico."

The Houston oil and gas explorer on Feb. 28 was awarded a permit to resume drilling its Santiago prospect, located in about 6,500 feet of water about 70 miles southeast of Venice, La.

Noble had been drilling the Santiago well, which it owns with BP and private explorers Red Willow Production Co. and Houston Energy Partners, when U.S. regulators shut down deep-water drilling in response to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and the subsequent oil spill.

Since giving Noble a permit, U.S. regulators have issued drilling permits for five other deep-water wells, each to a different operators. Noble officials say they expect to begin drilling the Santiago well in the next several weeks.

"We're not over the hump by any means," Davidson said. "There's going to be a lot of work to get the industry back to the full pace that it needs to be, but we're certainly taking some good steps here in the last month or so."

Noble has asked regulators to also let it begin drilling its Deep Blue prospect, which is west of Santiago and was also underway when the government halted such operations, Davison said.

"We're still working through the permitting process on Deep Blue," Davidson said.

Noble was also the first producer to win government permission to complete a well after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the company expects production from that well, located near Santiago, to begin late this year or early 2012. Noble's share of its output is expected to be between 7,000 and 8,000 barrels of oil per day, Davidson said.

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