- Associated Press - Thursday, October 21, 2010

NEW YORK | Chevron Corp. may be one of the first companies to ask permission to drill new wells in the Gulf of Mexico since the moratorium was lifted.

The San Ramon, Calif., oil giant said Thursday it plans to file an application for drilling permits in the next several days for various deep-water projects in the Gulf.

The government says it hasn’t received any new applications for drilling permits since the Interior Department lifted the ban earlier this month.

A Chevron spokesman didn’t specify which projects would be included in the application. But the company said in a separate announcement that it will devote $7.5 billion toward two new fields in about 7,000 feet of water off the Louisiana coast.

Projects at those depths were halted for several months after an explosion on a BP operation that killed 11 people and led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Chevron’s Jack and St. Malo fields sit about 280 miles south of New Orleans and contain an estimated 500 million barrels of oil and natural gas. The company already has drilled seven exploration and appraisal wells in the area since 2003, and it expects to drill 10 new production wells to tap into those fields.

During the next four years, Chevron hopes to install an offshore production facility that can process 170,000 barrels of oil and 42.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Chevron owns 50 percent of the Jack field, 51 percent of the St. Malo field and 51 percent of the production facility.

Shares rose 93 cents, or about 1 percent, to $84.95 in morning trading Thursday after rising to a 52-week high of $85 earlier in the session.