Daily Archives: November 7, 2011

U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

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U.S. Africa Command/Major Eric Hilliard – The Seychelles, where the U.S. had temporarily stationed MQ-9s under the operational authority of U.S. Africa Command, now houses a base where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month.

By Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller
Published: September 20

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.

Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”

A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.

“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”

A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.

Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.

“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of ­counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”

The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”

To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.

“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”

In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.

U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”

The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.

The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.

The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.

The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.

“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.

An Ethio­pian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.

Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.

“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” said the former senior U.S. military official.

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Scramble for Africa

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JOHN CHERIAN

The neocolonial scramble for Africa has truly begun with the installation of the National Transitional Council in Libya.

REUTERS

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda at a news conference in Kampala on October 16. He said the despatch of U.S. troops to deal with the rebel outfit Lord’s Resistance Army was not meant for combat but rather liaison and support in the area of intelligence.

THE installation of the National Transitional Council (NTC) government in Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) could signal the beginning of an open neocolonial scramble for Africa. Suspicions about such a blueprint were first aroused when President George W. Bush set up the United States-Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, months before demitting office. The demand for a permanent American military footprint on the African continent had come from right-wing think tanks that enjoyed great clout in the corridors of power during the eight years of the Bush presidency.

A background paper prepared in 2002 by the influential right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation had called for the creation of a military command for the continent so that “direct military intervention”, using air power and naval forces, could become possible to “protect vital U.S. interests” in Africa. Such interventions, its authors wrote, would not necessitate the deployment of U.S. forces on the ground. Such wars, the paper proposed, should be fought with the help of local allies. The U.S. Defence Department’s African Contingency Operation Training and Assistance Programme is deeply involved in training the armies of many countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana, America’s close allies in the region.

The authors of the paper clearly spelt out what they meant by vital interests: “With its vast natural and mineral resources, Africa remains strategically important to the West, as it has been for hundreds of years, and its geostrategic significance is likely to rise in the 21st century.” According to the National Intelligence Council, “the United States is likely to draw 25 per cent of its oil from West Africa by 2015, surpassing the volume imported from the Persian Gulf”, the Heritage Foundation study reported. The Bush administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner was quick to echo the views expressed by the foundation. He went on record stating that Africa’s oil had “become a national strategic interest”.

Libya is among Africa’s biggest oil producers. China was importing 11 per cent of Libyan oil for its domestic needs before the NATO-instigated civil war in the North African state started seven months ago. It could now find itself locked out of new oil contracts. Top functionaries of the NTC have said that China, Russia and Brazil would be frozen out of contracts.

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JOSEPH KONY, THE leader of the LRA. A file photograph.

These countries had criticised the misuse of the United Nations Security Council resolution on Libya to bring about a regime change. China gets around one-third of its oil from Africa. The French newspaper Liberacion recently published documents revealing the NTC leadership’s offer of 35 per cent of Libya’s oil production to France in return for its “total and permanent support” for the new government. Gene Cretz, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, recently blurted out that “oil is the jewel of the crown of Libyan national resources”.

President Barack Obama, who famously claimed that he was leading the war in Libya “from behind”, used precisely the tactics prescribed in the Heritage Foundation report. AFRICOM played an important behind-the-scenes role in planning the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya. U.S. Special Forces teamed up with its counterparts from France and the United Kingdom to arm and organise the ragtag rebel forces into a fighting unit. It was the coordinated air strikes, coupled with an amphibious operation led by the U.S., that finally led to the fall of Tripoli. South African President Jacob Zuma complained bitterly that it was NATO bombing that prevented the African Union (A.U.) from hammering out a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Libya. More than 200 prominent Africans wrote an open letter in August criticising the recourse to “militarised diplomacy to effect regime change in Libya”.

In early October, a few days before the fall of Sirte and the killing of Muammar Qaddafi, Obama ordered the despatch of 100 U.S. Special Forces troops to Uganda. He said the decision to send the troops was taken to help the U.S.’ ally in the region, Yoweri Museveni, defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which was engaged in a guerilla war with the central government in Kampala. Obama told Congress that the troops were deployed in order “to assist African forces in the removal of Joseph Koni [the LRA leader] and the LRA leadership from the battlefield”. Museveni, one of Africa’s long-serving authoritarian rulers, was a one-time friend of Qaddafi. Qaddafi had extended support to the rebel army that brought Museveni to power in 1986. After coming to power, Museveni became one of the trusted allies of the West and was regularly feted at the White House.

At America’s bidding, Uganda has sent peacekeepers to Somalia under the A.U. umbrella to keep the Islamist Al Shabab militia out of the capital, Mogadishu. Two years ago, Ethiopia dispatched its troops to Somalia to drive away the Islamic Courts Union government from Mogadishu after it had managed to unite most of the country. In the face of immense resistance, the Ethiopian troops were withdrawn, but the country was left in chaos again. Al Shabab exploited this and now poses a potent threat to U.S. interests in the region.

In the middle of October, Kenya replicated what Ethiopia did. Encouraged by the U.S., it sent its troops deep into Somalia to fight Al Shabab. The U.S. is providing air support to the Kenyan military. The Kenyan invasion has already led to terror attacks in Kenyan cities. Only a handful of African states have bothered to send peacekeepers to the war-ravaged country, viewing the conflict there as one mainly instigated by the West.

Observers of the African scene are suspicious of the Obama administration’s sudden decision to send Special Forces to Uganda. Obama has also indicated that the U.S. forces will be sent to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, ostensibly to help the governments there to crush rebel groups. AFRICOM provides billions of dollars worth of equipment to the armies of countries that are friendly to the U.S. The U.S. military is already helping counter-insurgency operations in Mali and Niger, where the marginalised Tuareg ethnic group has raised the banner of revolt. “With Libya secure, an American invasion of Africa is under way,” observed John Pilger in a recent article.

The LRA, which operates along Uganda’s borders with Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, was never considered a serious threat in the 24 years that it has been active. It is said to have around 500 fighters, many of them child soldiers. Many African commentators suspect that the real goal of the Obama administration is to start preparing the ground for a permanent military base for AFRICOM on the continent. AFRICOM is currently headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, but it has a major military facility in Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, a small state located in the Horn of Africa. In all, 1,800 American troops are permanently based there.

In the island state of Seychelles, the U.S. has secretly deployed MQ-9 Reaper drones. These “hunter-killers” have been deployed extensively over Somalia. African civil society is very much opposed to U.S. military involvement in Africa. No African country has until now openly offered permanent basing facilities, although there were reports in the media that Liberia and Morocco were among the countries that were being short-listed by Washington. The regional grouping, Southern African Development Community (SADC), has refused to give any kind of support or access to AFRICOM.

Military analysts say that from the strategic point of view, land-locked Uganda provides the ideal location for a permanent U.S. military base on the African continent. With Libya already under NATO stewardship, the U.S. can regain control over the military bases it was ousted from following the removal of the pro-Western King Idris. It has been a long-term U.S. goal to occupy the strategic crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Arab world. The death of Qaddafi has made this goal an achievable reality. The next step is to ensure the U.S. military’s stranglehold on Central Africa to control the region’s hydrocarbon and other mineral resources. Uganda’s neighbours, such as Congo and Southern Sudan, are rich in mineral resources, which include diamonds and precious metals such as gold, platinum, lithium and cobalt.

According to oil industry experts, Uganda has huge untapped oil resources. A UPI report in March said: “East Africa is emerging as the next oil boom following a big strike in Uganda’s Lake Albert Basin. Other oil and gas reserves have been found in Tanzania and Mozambique and exploration is under way in Ethiopia and war-torn Somalia.” The region is rich in rare earths, which remain largely unexploited. Currently, China has a monopoly over rare-earth production located within its borders.

The Economist had noted that “several jealous western governments and companies want to stall China’s advance into the Congo basin, with its vast reserves of minerals and timber”. The big economic and diplomatic stride made by China on the African continent has caused a lot of heartburn in Western capitals. China has been focussing on Africa since the 1960s. China started investing heavily there ever since it began to emerge as a big economic power. Its investments in 2010 were estimated at $47 billion. Beijing’s policy of giving liberal “no-strings-attached” loans to African nations has won it a lot of goodwill. But with Chinese labour and capital moving into the continent in a big way, the resentment that has been building up in some countries has come in handy for the West.

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Shallow-water drilling companies warn of job losses

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by Gabe Gutierrez

HOUSTON – Shallow-water drilling companies are blasting the Obama administration for not extending their oil and gas drilling leases and they claim thousands of Houston jobs could be lost or delayed.

Last week, the federal government officially extended almost 1,400 deep-water drilling leases for a year to make up for the lost production during last year’s drilling moratorium following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Once again, the shallow-water operators are left out in the cold,” said Jim Noe, a spokesperson for Hercules Offshore who also leads a coalition of shallow-water companies. “It doesn’t make any sense. You can be for or against offshore drilling. I think most people — particularly in today’s environment — are for jobs.”

Noe estimates that thousands of Houston jobs would be in jeopardy if the leases were allowed to expire because many shallow-water companies have essentially lost a year’s worth of production and would be reluctant to rebid for leases in such an uncertain regulatory climate.

Almost 350 shallow-water leases are set to expire by the end of 2011, Noe said.

The federal government has told the shallow-water companies they don’t need the extension since they weren’t shut down during the drilling moratorium. But Noe said delays in the permitting process during that time effectively idled many of their workers.

Tim Caws moved to Houston from Australia six years ago to work for an energy industry contractor. He now worries his job making pipes for offshore companies could be in jeopardy.

“I think (the industry) does get a bad rap,” he said. “We rely on the oil industry so heavily. It’s such an important part of our lifestyle.”

Still, other Houstonians have a tough time sympathizing with the oil companies.

“It’s very hard to feel sorry for anybody that’s making the excessive profits,” said Keith Bolden.

“I think they should be investing time and money into alternative energy, so that way I don’t have to spend $70 to fill up my gas tank,” said Ryan Cabiya.

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USA: Fight for Nantucket Sound Continues

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You could almost detect the gritty glee in Audra Parker’s statement when, as president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, she said: “This represents a major setback for an already struggling project,” regarding the recent appeals court decision — the alliance filed the appeal — that further delays the implementation of the country’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind.

Like Ali and Frazier, this represents another round in the epic battle of Sound vs. Wind.

The decision rendered on Oct. 28 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (former members include John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is important because the court is considered the second most important behind the Supreme Court.

Principally, because of its “often exclusive jurisdiction” to hear “challenges to … environmental protections” issued by federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Cape Wind is running out of legal options. The FAA is now required to further review the project — it has reviewed the matter for eight years — to determine (as it has previously done) that the turbines pose no threat to aviation.

With aerial anticipation, the alliance is sensing a final knock out.

Citizen advocate groups, single-issue social artifacts, like the alliance, are typically created to profess opposition to, raise awareness of, and are ultimately organized for, elimination of public projects (ironically, created for public benefit) or societal ills, of which, locally, Cape Wind is public enemy No. 1.

For the alliance and its neighboring cousin, Windwise-Cape Cod, among others, rejection is often an easier form of political expression than proposition. The statements they make and alternatives they offer are overly simplistic and are sometimes consumed with more emotion and hyperbole than intelligence and should be challenged as much as the assumptions offered by Cape Wind and other wind projects.

Sheila K. Bowen, president of Windwise, recently wrote of industrial turbines that “they are not environmentally responsible.” Does any thoughtful person, who is serious about energy policy, especially “green” or “clean” energy, really believe that? With that line of reasoning one should come to the same conclusion that the use of combustion engines in school buses, emitting carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, is also not “environmentally responsible.” Stop the buses!

The alliance says “other green initiatives like energy efficiency and alternative power sources, including land-based wind and hydro, can provide power and save the environment at half the cost of Cape Wind.” Preposterous. Do they factor into their calculus that significant upgrades (read, cost) need to be made to transmission lines from an already taxed grid, from places like Maine and Vermont?

Further still, they also support land-based wind projects “when appropriately sited” and in the “general interests of the local community.”

Additionally, “land-based wind is often more favorable than offshore wind due to better economics, less risk and the existence of a regulatory process.” Translation: not happening. Ask the residents of Brewster, Bourne and Falmouth if they believe there are favorable, appropriate sites in their towns.

Should Cape Wind proceed, the alliance believes, citing what should be a questionable Beacon Hill Institute study, that “a loss in property values of $1.35 billion” can be expected and “a reduction in tourist spending of $57 million to $123 million” should be feared.

Finally, the alliance touts “upgrades to existing power plants” (will Parker agree to pay more for the cost?), “deep-water sites” (think Deepwater Horizon), “management of consumer demand patterns through peak-load sharing or shifting” (elaborate how) and “renewable options that can produce constant, reliable generation with lower transmission costs” (what are the options?).

The reality is that there are few options. But Cape Wind, perhaps not economically proficient at the moment, is a viable one. Solar energy provides a cost of nearly double that of offshore wind energy and recent bankruptcies of Evergreen and Solyndra — financed with taxpayer dollars at the local and national levels — is rarely mentioned by those opposed to Cape Wind as a sensible option. Nuclear energy, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi troubles, does not seem politically expedient either.

So, opponents of Cape Wind, provide better, more detailed options for powering our homes, gadgets and lifestyles, considering our increasing, insatiable demand.

As Sound and Wind take to their respective corners, it is not known when the next round will be, but it is certain that the match, like all fights, will be determined by judges. Sadly, that is a reflection of our flawed and failed energy policies.

James P. Freeman of Orleans is a financial services professional.

By James Freeman (capecodonline)

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Telemark

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Mirage/Morgus
Phase I of the project focuses on the northern part of the greater Telemark area, which includes the Mirage and Morgus fields.
Located on Mississippi Canyon Block 941 in a water depth of 3,800 feet (1,158 meters), the Mirage field was discovered in 1998 when a well encountered roughly 87 feet (27 meters) of hydrocarbons in two sands. The Morgus field is located on Mississippi Canyon Block 942 in 4,304 feet (1,312 meters) of water, and was discovered when drilling encountered approximately 55 feet (17 meters) of net pay.
In an effort to cut costs, ATP decided to jointly develop these fields due to their close proximity. Combined, Mirage and Morgus hold estimated recoverable reserves of 190 Bcf (5 Bcm).
In 2008, the West Sirius semisub drilled three wells on the Mirage and Morgus fields and reached a total depth of 5,900 feet (1,798 meters) in 3,927 feet (1,197 meters) of water.
To develop the Mirage field, Technip received a contract for the flowlines, risers, jumpers and subsea structures. The contract covered engineering for the installation, welding and installation of two steel catenery risers and two oil and gas export flowlines; fabrication and installation of subsea structures and jumpers and pre-commissioning of the project.
Mirage is operated by ATP, which owns a 25% interest; Statoil owns the remaining 75% interest. Morgus is operated by ATP, but Statoil owns 100% of the interest.
Telemark
Phase II of the project focuses on the Telemark field. Telemark is situated in a water depth of 4,300 feet (1,311 meters) on Atwater Valley Block 63. ATP acquired the field in 2006 and owns 97% interest; BHP Billiton holds 1% interest; Chevron holds 1% interest; and Eni holds the remaining 1% interest.
The field was discovered in 2003 in the southern part of the greater Telemark area when exploratory drilling encountered 140 feet (43 meters) of hydrocarbons in the Miocene sands. The Telemark field was deemed commercially viable shortly after, and ATP began field development preparations.
Situated 7 miles south of the Mirage and Morgus fields, Telemark originally was designed to have its own production hub, a MinDOC II, but the company decided to tie-back the field’s subsea well to the ATP Titan, as well. This development will result in an increase in production rates through ATP Titan in 2010 and 2011.
In May 2009, Bluewater Industries received a contract for the field’s development. The contract covers the design and manufacture of one high-pressure flexible riser measuring 2 miles (3 kilometers) long, and engineering for the installation and welding of one oil and gas production flowline approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) long. The contact also includes installation of a flowline and associated riser with an option to install an umbilical; fabrication and installation of subsea structures and a jumper; and pre-commissioning of the project.
ATP Titan
In 2007, ATP decided to develop the Telemark area with a floating, drilling and production triple-column spar, the ATP Titan, since accessible infrastructure wasn’t nearby. The MinDOC, a deep draft floating platform, is comprised of three columns linked by pontoons, boasting a higher load capacity and enhanced stability than previous designed semisubmersibles or spars.
In 2007, construction of the ATP Titan MinDOC commenced with construction slated to end in the third quarter of 2009. The facility has a design capacity of 25 Mbopd and 60 MMcf/d (2 MMcm/d) and incoporates six dry tree wellheads with three pairs of future subsea flowlines. Mustang Engineering received a contract to provide detailed engineering and procurement support for the topsides production facilities on the ATP Titan.
Towards the end of 2009, ATP Titan was moored at the Mirage and Morgus fields to complete the drilling of three wells to vertical depths of 14,500 to 17,250 feet (4,420 to 5,258 meters). The vessel will serve as the production platform for the life of the fields’ reserves. Then, ATP Titan will move to the Telemark field to recover its remaining reserves once the vessel has finished producing from the Mirage and Morgus fields.
First production from the Telemark Hub commenced on March 28, 2010, and the vessel has an estimated life span of 40 years.
Future Exploration
A fourth field that is 100% owned and operated by APT — Oasis — is located on Mississippi Canyon Block 943, and may be tied-back to the platform, pending exploration results.

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Norway: Aker Proposes Aker Floating Production Acquisition

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Norwegian conglomerate Aker said on Monday it was offering to buy Aker Floating Production , which owns and operates two ships that can produce oil and gas at offshore fields.

Aker, which already controls 72.3 percent of Aker Floating Production through a majority-owned investment firm, did not give a value for the transaction.

“Aker proposes a merger with Aker Floating Production in order to strengthen the FPSO (floating production storage and offloading) company’s balance sheet,” it said in a statement.

Aker said minority shareholders in Aker Floating Production would be offered settlement in Aker shares, and it would purchase some 115,000 Aker shares in the market for this purpose.

Reporting by Oslo newsroom (Reuters)

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Petrobras Strikes Oil in U.S. Gulf of Mexico

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Petrobras last week announced a new oil discovery in the extreme southwestern part of the Walker Ridge concession area, located in America’s Gulf of Mexico ultra-deep waters. The discovery confirms the Lower Tertiary’s potential in this area.

The Logan discovery is approximately 400 km (250 miles) southwest of New Orleans, at a water of around 2,364 meters (7,750 feet). The discovery was made by drilling operations of well WR 969 #1 (Logan #1), in block WR 969. Further exploration activities will define Logan’s recoverable volumes and its commercial potential.

Statoil is the consortium’s operator, with 35% stake. Petrobras America Inc. (a subsidiary of Petrobras headquartered in Houston, Texas) holds 35% of the stake, while Ecopetrol America and OOGC hold 20% and 10%, respectively.

Petrobras in the Gulf of Mexico

As a world leader in deepwater operations, Petrobras benefits from the experience and technology the company developed in its offshore operations in Brazil.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Petrobras is the operator of Cascade (100%) and Chinook (66.7%) oilfields and holds stakes in the Saint Malo (25%), Stones (25%) and Tiber (20%) discoveries, all with significant oil reserves in the Lower Tertiary. Additionally, Petrobras has stakes in the very recent Hadrian South (23.3%), Hadrian North (25%) and Lucius (9.6%) discoveries, all with significant oil reserves and in the Mio-Pliocene.

Petrobras holds other exploratory concession areas in this region, which will be tested later on, growing the Company’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

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