The U.S. government on March 17 gave final regulatory approval for the first floating production storage and offloading facility in the Gulf of Mexico. The FPSO will be used instead of permanent production platforms. Operators in the gulf have not needed the technology previously because of the vast infrastructure that already exists in the Gulf of Mexico. The FPSO, the BW Pioneer, will have the capacity to produce up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day and 16 million cu ft of gas per day. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement says the facility will soon be operational in 8,200 ft of water about 160 miles off the Louisiana coast in Brazil-based Petrobas’ Chinook-Cascade field. The oil will be moved to market by shuttle tankers, and the gas by pipeline.

On March 21, BOEMRE also approved the first Gulf of Mexico deepwater exploration plan since last year’s Deepwater Horizon fire and oil spill. Shell Offshore Inc. submitted the plan after conducting a site-specific environmental assessment for deepwater oil and gas exploration. The approval means that additional applications for drilling permits can be issued.