The Interior Department on Monday extended 1,381 deepwater oil and natural gas drilling leases to compensate for delays caused by the Macondo well blowout and subsequent offshore drilling moratorium.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said it had concluded the process to vet requests for extra time. The Obama administration had announced the lease extension plan in May to compensate operators for the five-month deepwater drilling moratorium and to allow more time to meet more stringent standards to operate in the offshore (see Daily GPI, May 17).

According to the BSEE, operators had asked for extensions of up to one year for 1,413 offshore leases and 2.3% pf the applications were denied. Interior opened the program to nonproducing leases in at least 500 feet of water that were to expire before Dec. 13, 2015. Deepwater drilling leases typically are for around 10 years.

The American Petroleum Industry applauded the extensions, calling them a “much needed certainty for companies with ongoing operations.” Expanding drilling opportunities also is necessary, said the industry group.

“Extending these offshore leases is a good decision, supported by the need to increase production in the Gulf of Mexico and produce in other areas,” said API spokesman Reid Porter. “Looking ahead, energy security, U.S. job creation and economic growth would all benefit from responsible offshore development in areas not yet opened.”

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