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Big Oil Races Back Into the Gulf of Mexico

The Royal Dutch Shell Plc Olympus tension leg platform sets sail on its way to the Mars B Field in the Gulf of Mexico on July 13
The Royal Dutch Shell Plc Olympus tension leg platform sets sail on its way to the Mars B Field in the Gulf of Mexico on July 13 Photograph by Eddie Seal/Bloomberg

In October 2010, the Obama administration lifted its five-month ban on deepwater drilling in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico following BP‘s disastrous oil spill. Three years later, global oil companies are flocking back to the deepest waters of the Gulf, snatching up oil leases and drilling permits at a record level.

The number of drilling permits issued in the U.S. Gulf reached a record 807 on Sept. 26, according to a new report by Bloomberg Industries, an increase of more than 14 percent over the same period last year. According to oil-services company Baker Hughes, there were 62 rigs operating in the Gulf as of Sept. 27, more than at any time in four years. Rig counts fell dramatically following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010, dwindling to a dozen within three months of the disaster.