Saltiel: Moving on from the BP blowout

Rob Saltiel

Rob Saltiel

 April 29, 2015  Corpus Cristi Caller Times (subscription) -

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico. We remembered those who were directly affected, especially the 11 workers from the Deepwater Horizon who lost their lives and the thousands of people in Texas and elsewhere who saw their livelihoods upended by the oil spill and the ensuing drilling moratorium.

Now we should use this milestone as an opportunity to take stock of where we are and where we're going. Drilling for oil and natural gas off our nation's shores will continue to be a potentially hazardous business. But it's clear that the benefits far outweigh the risks: We must develop our offshore energy natural resources for employment, economic and national security reasons.

Much has changed over the past five years. When the Macondo incident occurred in 2010, the shale revolution was just beginning. The goal of U.S. energy independence seemed as unattainable as ever. And offshore drilling was limited to the central and western Gulf of Mexico.

Today, the United States is producing more oil than at any time since 1972 — and we may soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the second-biggest producer (after Russia). Hydraulic fracturing technology has unlocked huge reservoirs of natural gas, leading to a manufacturing revolution as companies build new factories and create jobs here at home rather than overseas. And the Obama administration has issued a proposed five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that contemplates opening areas off the Atlantic Coast for the first time in decades. America's energy future looks very bright.

Our industry has made great strides in improving operational reliability since Macondo, and we are committed to operating safely to ensure that such an incident never occurs again. The federal government and private industry have implemented significant reforms regarding drilling and workplace safety, worker training, and blowout preventer testing and maintenance. The Department of the Interior recently proposed additional regulations covering blowout preventer safety and well control operations. We all remember that Macondo's environmental impact was prolonged by the lack of available equipment to cap a subsea blowout. Today, appropriate well containment equipment is accessible by all Gulf of Mexico operators if needed.

Offshore energy resources will continue to play an important role in the Texas and U.S. economies. One recent study concluded that more than 800,000 new jobs would be created nationwide (62,000 of them here in Texas) by 2035 if we open the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to exploration and production. More than half a trillion dollars could be contributed to the economy while governments at every level would take in $200 billion in tax revenue.

We have come a long way since the blowout of the Macondo well on April 20, 2010. Even as we mourn the losses that occurred five years ago, we can be proud of the progress our industry has made and commit ourselves to a safe and prosperous energy future.

Rob Saltiel is the president and CEO of Atwood Oceanics Inc., a Houston-based company engaged in the drilling and completion of exploration and development wells for the global oil and gas industry.