Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement reports "an uptick" in the number of deepwater drilling permits approved this year from last year for the Gulf of Mexico, where production platforms are getting bigger and more efficient.
Scott Angelle, director of the agency, said during a speech in New Orleans on Thursday that there is "an uptick" in the number of deepwater drilling approvals, which makes him optimistic for 2019 and beyond.
The deepwaters in the Gulf of Mexico are mostly oil producers, unlike the area's shallow waters that mostly yield natural gas, he added.
The U.S. Gulf of Mexico already yields one out of every five barrels of oil produced in the U.S. and in 2017 production reached a record high 621 million barrels of oil, he said.
Advances in crude oil extraction technology have made it possible to obtain the same oil production with a third of the platforms that were needed in recent years but the infrastructure is now bigger, he added.
"The top 11 facilities produce what took 37 facilities a decade ago can be explained by the trend toward fewer, larger platforms in deeper water," he said.
Those 11 facilities, all in deepwater, represent 50 percent of total oil and natural gas production there during all of last year. "It took three times as many platforms ten years ago to reach the 50 percent production total," he said.
Separately, the agency reported on Oct. 16, in its last update on Gulf of Mexico disruptions related to Hurricane Michael that passed through the area earlier this month, that 7.7 percent of oil production in the area and 3.5 percent of gas production was still shut-in.
It also said that three plaftforms had reported grating damage.