Exxon’s Gulf Hadrian Project Delayed by Permit Freeze

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest oil company, said its plan to drill a deep-water oil well in the Gulf of Mexico called Hadrian has been delayed by a U.S. moratorium on offshore drilling permits.

Exxon moved a rig to a site in 6,941 feet (2,116 meters) of water in anticipation of drilling the well before the moratorium was imposed earlier this month, halting any additional work on the project, said Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for the Irving, Texas-based company.

A U.S. Interior Department report issued today that included Hadrian in a list of deep-water projects that began in the week ended May 17 may have been referring to Exxon’s preparatory work, Jeffers said. The moratorium on new permits was declared after an April 20 explosion and fire aboard a Transocean Ltd. rig that killed 11 workers and triggered subsea oil leaks.

Caryl Fagot, a spokeswoman for the department’s Minerals Management Service, which produced today’s report, didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The agency’s weekly deep-water activity report also showed Newfield Exploration Co. and ATP Oil & Gas Corp. began drilling deep-water oil wells in the Gulf in the past week.

Pyranees Drilling

Keith Schmidt, a spokesman for Newfield, confirmed drilling has begun on a well at the company’s Pyranees project in 2,095 feet of water. Isabel Plume, an ATP spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment on the deep-water report. Both companies are based in Houston.

Exxon dropped 48 cents to $62.79 as of 4:01 p.m. in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Newfield fell $1.07, or 2 percent, to $51.44. ATP declined 42 cents to $14.71 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

There are at least 37 deep-water drilling projects operating in the U.S. section of the Gulf of Mexico, the report showed. Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled explorer, is overseeing the deepest, Chinook, in 8,850 feet of water.

BP Plc, the London-based company that was leasing the rig that exploded, burned and sank last month, is drilling a relief well to halt leaks in the one damaged in the disaster that claimed 11 lives. It’s BP’s only active deep-water project, according to the report.

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