I’m seeing a lot of chatter citing the explosion on the Mariner Energy, Inc. rig as good evidence of the need for a moratorium on deep water drilling. But based on the initial reports we know two things that make talk of the moratorium somewhat extraneous.
First, this was not a deep water well. It was drilling in the Gulf in waters reported as being 340-feet deep or 450-feet deep, depending on who’s doing the reporting. That’s shallow compared to the mile-deep water BP’s Deepwater Horizon was drilling in when it went down. So the moratorium doesn’t apply.
Second, this was a production platform, not a drilling platform, according to the initial reports. There’s been some conflict in the reports about whether it was actively producing at the time of the explosion, but regardless it’s not an exploration platform. The moratorium applies to drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf. Production in the deep waters of the Gulf has been ongoing ever since the BP disaster.
Two points of clarification to keep in mind as this story unfolds.