Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday visited three Gulf of Mexico drilling rigs -- two active and one idle -- to receive updates on industry compliance with new inspection requirements and safety specifications for blowout preventers (BOPs) and well construction.

"We saw production activities and shallow-water drilling operations that are implementing the new standards as they continue their operations. We also continued to gather information about the steps industry is taking to address shortcomings in safety, blowout prevention and spill response capabilities in deep waters, so that those deepwater operations can safety resume," he said.

The Obama administration imposed a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf following the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig off the coast of southern Louisiana (see Daily GPI, May 28). Two federal courts struck down the blanket ban, which prompted Interior to issue a new moratorium. The oil and gas industry attacked the new ban, saying it was no different than the original (see Daily GPI, July 14).

Salazar landed first on the Murphy Exploration & Production's Front Runner spar facilities at Green Canyon Block 338. Murphy currently is working on Well A-2 on a plug back/recomplete, an activity that is allowed under the deepwater drilling suspension.

Next Salazar visited the Noble Danny Adkins in Green Canyon Block 247 (Shell Offshore Inc.). The rig currently is trying to meet the department's new inspection requirements. All equipment on the rig was available for inspection. Drilling operations on the rig have been halted under the deepwater ban.

The secretary also landed on the Rowan Ralph Coffman Drilling rig, which is working for McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC at South Timbalier Block 144 in their Blackbeard East prospect. The rig is a jack-up platform in shallow water and McMoran is currently in the drilling mode.

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