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ATP Oil & Gas Wins Deep-Water Drilling Permit; Shares Surge

ATP Oil & Gas Corp. won a U.S. permit to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the third company cleared to resume work halted last year after BP Plc’s oil spill. The company surged in New York trading.

ATP, based in Houston, will be able to restart work on a well in 4,000 feet of water about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Venice, Louisiana, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said today in a statement.

“It certainly brings a lot more clarity to our production profile for this year,” Chief Financial Officer Albert Reese said in a phone interview after the announcement. “It’s a great way to end Friday.”

President Barack Obama halted oil and natural-gas drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet after the April 20 BP explosion, which killed 11 workers and spewed crude for 87 days. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar lifted the ban on Oct. 12, citing adoption of safeguards intended to prevent future spills.

ATP rose 81 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $18.31 at 4:30 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange Composite trading, after climbing as much as 11 percent, the steepest intraday gain in seven months.

Noble Energy Inc. won the first deep-water drilling permit on Feb. 28, followed by BHP Billiton Ltd. on March 11. All three companies are using Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc. in case of a well blowout, according to the regulator.

‘Ready, Eager’

ATP will use a stationary drilling platform for its well, while Noble and BHP Billiton won permits for mobile offshore units, the company said in a statement.

“We are ready and eager to return to work,” Chief Executive Officer T. Paul Bulmahn said in the statement. ATP’s well was drilled to about 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) and casing was set in 2009, the company said.

The bureau, part of the Interior Department, had said the lack of equipment to plug damaged wells and collect spilled oil was an obstacle that prevented the agency from issuing permits until last month.

The Helix system competes with a process developed by Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest oil company, with BP, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp.

Helix advanced 68 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $15.39, the biggest gain since Feb. 25.

ATP, which is the sole owner of the well, plans to resume drilling within two days, using a Nabors Industries Ltd. rig, Reese said.

Download: Earnings

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