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The second permit for drilling deepwater in the Gulf has been granted. BHP Billiton, an Australian company, can now resume drilling a well in Green Canyon Block 653, said agency spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz.

BHP Billiton had been drilling a well in 4200 feet of water about 150 miles south of Houma, Louisiana, when the Deepwater Horizon blew.

The drilling is predicated on the use of the (as yet untested) capping device provided by the Helix Well Containment Group. Schwartz said BHP would use the Helix stack to contain any blowouts. Okay...

While the government said it was waiting on sufficient spill response plans, the industry and its political supporters have been complaining about the slow pace of permitting since President Obama's deepwater drilling moratorium was officially lifted last October. It took nearly five months for the first two permits to be granted.

While many cheered Noble's permit last month, the local responses were tempered by a sense in the industry that many more permits would be necessary to truly protect offshore jobs.

BHP's well appears to have the markings of a relatively lower-risk project. It is in shallower water than BP's Macondo well, which sat more than 5,000 feet below the surface. It is also within reach of Helix's system for collecting excess oil and bringing it to the surface, if that's ever necessary.

And BHP is apparently cut of the same cloth as other rapacious fossil-fuel/mining companies...

The company began petroleum exploration in the 1960s with discoveries in Bass Strait, an activity which became an increasing focus.

BHP began to diversify offshore in a variety of projects. One project was the Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea, where the company was successfully sued by the indigenous inhabitants because of the environmental degradation caused by the mine operations. BHP had better success with the giant Escondida copper mine in Chile (57.5% owned) and the Ekati Diamond Mine in northern Canada.

The inefficiencies of what was, by global standards, a small steel operation in Newcastle finally caught up with the company and the Newcastle operations were closed in 1999. The 'long products' side of the steel business was spun off to form OneSteel in 2000.

In 2001, BHP merged with the Billiton mining company to form BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world. In 2002, the 'flat products' steel business was spun off to form BHP Steel. In 2003, BHP Steel changed its name to BlueScope Steel.

So, do you think BP will be in a hurry to pay their bills? That has happened so often in the past...Fire up the next legal brigade.

Federal government bills BP for $62 million

The Obama administration has billed BP PLC. for $62 million spent responding to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The federal government sent the bill Friday. It was the 10th bill sent to BP and other companies considered responsible parties.

BP is required to pay for the government's costs to respond to the oil spill. To date, BP has paid the Obama administration $632 million for cleanup costs.

Frances Beinecke, one of seven commissioners serving on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, published an op-ed in the New Orleans Times Picayune on Friday. Even if it is all merely lip service, it might be considered heartening that it's actually being said...Follow-through, however, is more difficult.

Excerpts from that opinion piece:

Gulf of Mexico is a treasure to protect: Frances Beinecke

...after an exhaustive inquiry into the April 20 blowout that killed 11 workers and gushed 170 million gallons of toxic crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling issued a full report in January.

In it, we laid out specific recommendations on essential steps needed to protect our workers and our waters from the risks of offshore oil production. We were unanimous in our recommendations, reflecting solid agreement among all seven members of our bipartisan commission.

Among our key recommendations:

Reorganize the Interior Department to improve its oversight of offshore oil production and to insulate its safety functions from political pressures.

Make sure the bulk of the fines BP pays for the spill are used to help restore the Gulf.

Raise oil company liability to realistic levels.

Elevate science and environmental analysis in decisions affecting drilling and production operations.

The oil and gas industry, the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration each has a vital role to play.

The industry must improve its ability to respond to an emergency, contain a blowout and clean up oil from a spill. The non-profit Marine Well Containment Company the industry created last summer is an important step forward, as is a partner effort being coordinated by the Helix Energy Solutions Group. More is needed, though, to extend containment capability to depths greater than 10,000 feet.

If there's one thing I and my fellow commissioners learned in the 10 months we studied this issue, it's that the Gulf of Mexico is a special place. It's not a national sacrifice zone; it's a national treasure. It's time we started treating it like one.

We will never be able to prevent, outright, another disaster in the Gulf, so long as we continue, as a nation, to rely so heavily on oil. Every single day in this country we use 800 million gallons of oil, enough to fill the Empire State Building three times.

Unless and until we start to reduce that demand, we will continue to put the lives of our workers and our habitat at needless and growing risk. Even as we work to reduce those risks, we must also begin moving toward cleaner, safer and more sustainable sources of power and fuel.

We owe that much to those who lost their lives in the BP blowout last April. We owe that much to the people of the Gulf of Mexico. We owe that much to the future we all will leave to our children.

If we only thought that Big Oil and their Congressional enablers would live up to the spirit and the fact that the Gulf, and indeed, our entire environment, is something to truly be "treasured", and not raped, pillaged, and sacrificed on the altar of greed.

And the legal wrangling will be going on for years..

St. Tammany officials seeking information about damage to businesses from BP oil spill.

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis has asked local businesses that have been or continue to be impacted by the BP oil spill to take a survey that will serve as a tool to assess the economic consequences to the parish.

Davis requested that the chambers of commerce on each side of the parish send the survey to their members in an effort to gather information that could be used should the parish decide to file a lawsuit or head in some other direction with regard to the oil spill, said Suzanne Parsons Stymiest, the parish's spokeswoman.

Stymiest said the parish needs to find some method to predict potential impacts two, three or five years from now, and will look at the economic and quality of life issues following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.

Despite the parish's best efforts, tar balls dodged the barriers in place at the Rigolets and made their way into Lake Pontchartrain, reaching St. Tammany Parish's easternmost shores. The oil's full impact to south Louisiana and its thriving seafood industry remains undetermined.

President Obama's remarks on oil production elicit howls of indignation from Louisiana's congresscritters...

Blame was laid at the feed of the administration for the horrors caused by the drilling moratorium and subsequent slow issuing of drilling permits after the BP blowout.

"The gap continues to widen between what President Obama claims to be true about domestic energy production and what Louisianans know is true," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

"This administration still doesn't seem to understand that the best way to combat rising gasoline prices is to encourage new domestic development and production of oil," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. With gas prices rising amid increased international demand and chaos in oil-rich Libya, Obama sought to debunk the notion that his administration was impeding domestic energy production.

"Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003," said the president. "Oil production from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico reached an all-time high. For the first time in more than a decade, imports accounted for less than half of what we consumed. So any notion that my administration has shut down oil production might make for a good political sound bite, but it doesn't match up with reality."

"We are encouraging offshore exploration and production," said the president. "We're just doing it responsibly. I don't think anybody has forgotten that we're only a few months removed from the worst oil spill in our history."

From the covering all the bases department, BP buys Brazil biofuels producer for $680m.

BP is to buy a Brazilian biofuels company for $680m (£424m) in a "watershed moment" in the oil major's plans to expand its sustainable fuel business.

The Companhia Nacional de Açúcar e Álcool (CNAA) deal includes 83 per cent of the Brazilian company's shares as well as an agreement to refinance its long term debt.

BP will gain 2,500 employees, two working ethanol mills and one more under construction, along with sufficient sugar cane to supply them. At full capacity, it will be able to process 15 million tonnes of sugar cane per year, producing 1.4 billion litres of ethanol.

BP has a presence in Brazil's biofuels sector through a 50 per cent stake in Tropical BioEnergia. But the CNAA deal is a different order of magnitude.

"This is a watershed moment," Philip New, the vice-president of BP Biofuels, said. "It is a foundation step for turning biofuels into a fully fledged business in BP."

The company is already betting big on green fuel. Since 2006, it has put more than $1.5bn into the business, and it is also investing $500m in the Energy Biosciences Institute in California.

"Biofuels are the only real alternative to crude oil if we are looking for decarbonised transport fuels and a broader set of supply options," Mr New said.

BP’s Russia deal hit by TNK revolt.

Representatives of four Russian oligarchs rejected a compromise offer from BP that would have handed their joint venture, TNK-BP, a larger role in the Rosneft deal, which was announced earlier this year.

The billionaires known collectively as Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) – Mikhail Fridman, Len Blatvatnik, German Khan and Viktor Vekselberg own a 50% stake in TNK-BP, which produces a third of BP’s oil output. They claim that BP has violated a previous agreement by entering into a £5bn share swap with Rosneft and a £10bn deal to develop Rosneft’s three licensed blocks on the Arctic continental shelf – a 50 square-mile region that is thought to contain 5 billion tons of oil.

The dispute, which is currently under arbitration, was the subject of the TNK-BP meeting yesterday.

A resolution was tabled at the meeting by TNK-BP’s management that would have seen the joint venture take BP’s place in the Rosneft tie-up.

And poor little Tony needs to make more money, since his 2010 BP bonus went into the gusher...

Billionaire financier Nat Rothschild has held talks with Tony Hayward, the former BP boss, about creating a new venture for a major resources deal.

People familiar with the matter confirmed the financier has held highly preliminary discussions with Mr Hayward about working together in the future as they are "friends".

However, these people stressed that it is possible the talks may not lead to anything substantial and that Mr Rothschild's priority is to complete the acquisition of $3bn (£1.8bn) of Indonesian coal assets through Vallar, a natural resources fund that he listed in London last year.

The merger with Indonesia's Bumi Resources will create one of the largest suppliers of coal to China.

Vallar is paying $1.58bn for 75pc of Berau Coal Energy, the fifth-largest producer in Indonesia, comprising $739m in cash and 52.3m shares priced at £10 each. Meanwhile, a total of 90m Vallar shares at £10 will be issued in exchange for 25pc of Bumi, the crown jewel of Indonesia's family-owned Bakrie Group.

There is speculation that if Mr Rothschild and Mr Hayward do go into business together, the successor to Vallar may focus on acquiring oil and gas assets. It was reported that Mr Rothschild studied the possible acquisition of some major Nigerian oil assets being sold by Shell before announcing the coal deal.

And our thoughts remain with the people of Japan.
PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:

3-11-11 07:14 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - Talkin Bout My Generation ursoklevar
3-11-11 08:29 AM Gulf Watchers Friday - Smoke, Mirrors and the Noise Machine - BP Catastrophe AUV #485 Lorinda Pike
3-09-11 05:00 AM Gulf Watchers Wed. - Shoddy engineering docs on oil rigs perfectly legal - BP Catastrophe AUV #484 peraspera
3-06-11 11:35 AM Gulf Watchers Sunday - It Was Dangerous Paperwork - BP Catastrophe AUV #483 Lorinda Pike
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.

Originally posted to Lorinda Pike on Sun Mar 13, 2011 at 08:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by Gulf Watchers Group.

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