The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Facts Don't Support Claims on Gulf of Mexico Oil Production

Kyle Isakower

Kyle Isakower
Posted March 10, 2011

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told Congress that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico "remained at an all-time high, and we expect that it will continue as we bring new production online." He claimed: "In 2009 there were 116 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2010 in February, 120, in February 2011, 126."

But Salazar's numbers distort the true number of working rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Baker Hughes:

  • Four days before the Deepwater Horizon accident there were 55 rotary rigs actually drilling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • On May 28, 2010, when the administration announced the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, there were 46 rotary rigs operating in the Gulf.
  • Last week, 25 rotary rigs were operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

So the fact that there is an "all-time high" number of rigs in the Gulf ignores the fact that most of those rigs are not working. Claiming an increase in idle rigs in the Gulf as a success story is like claiming the job market is great because a lot of people are unemployed and available to work.

In the same hearing, the Secretary also claimed that "the production has remained at an all-time high" within the Gulf of Mexico and there is no way to actually make this true. The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reports that production in the Gulf of Mexico is in decline, forecasting a decline of 250,000 barrels a day from Gulf production, due partly to the moratorium and restricted permitting. While the annual production figure for 2010 was greater than 2009, EIA's month-by-month production figures show a peak in May of 2010, and a relatively steady decline since. And EIA Petroleum Engineer Gary Long told trade publication E&E News that the rig count in the Gulf was cut in half after the Deepwater Horizon accident and that it wouldn't rebound to previous levels until the end of 2011 under the assumption that the permitting process is restored to historical rates. Further, since there is a lag time from the time an exploration permit is approved to the time of actual production, and since only a handful of permits for new wells have been granted since April of 2010, it is likely that Gulf of Mexico production will continue to be hit hard in 2012 and beyond.

We appreciate that, when it comes to selling the administration's energy policy, Secretary Salazar is in a tough position. Fortunately we are here to help, help provide the abundant and affordable energy that our economy needs, and help create the jobs our workers want. As API President Jack Gerard said recently:

"Our industry remains committed to working with government to meet our current and future challenges, but we need Congress and the administration on board. Let's stop talking and let's get back to work."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Isakower is vice president of regulatory and economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute. With 26 years experience, he is the go-to guy for issues regarding energy and environmental policy and oversees the development of API standards and economic analyses. In his past lives, Kyle has worked on issues related to waste management and remediation, NAAQS and air toxics—and led efforts promote the industry's energy efficiency efforts. Transplanted to Washington from north Jersey over 20 years ago, he remains faithful to the New York Giants, and works diligently to ensure his wife and two children do so as well.