The U.S. first permit issued to allow Houston's Noble Energy to drill in the Gulf of Mexico puts BP back as well. While Noble Energy operates the Santiago well. the biggest stake in the project, 46.5 percent, is held by non-operating partner BP, the Financial Times newspaper reports. The Santiago well is located less than 20 miles from BP's Deepwater Horizon platform and Macondo well, which exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and led to the rig spilling an estimated 170 million gallons of crude into the gulf. The UPI reports: Noble Energy had drilled the Santiago well to more than 13,000 feet when the U.S. government, reacting to the accident on the Deepwater Horizon, imposed a moratorium on deep-water oil exploration in the gulf. U.S. President Barack Obama lifted the moratorium in October, however, no permits to drill were given until Noble Energy received one for the Santiago well Monday. The Santiago well is the first in the gulf to see operation. This comes as the oil industry is upping the pressure on Washington to reopen the gulf for deep-sea exploration by granting more permits. The Financial Times quoted Michael Bromwich, the director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which grants the permits, as saying that Noble Energy had "successfully demonstrated that it can drill its deep-water well safely and that it is capable of containing a subsea blowout if it were to occur." Published by maritime lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP
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