Corpus Christi, TX – Analysis: From Big Foot to Bluto, Gulf of Mexico set for record oil supply surge
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:10pm EDT By Kristen Hays and Terry Wade
(Reuters) – The Gulf of Mexico, stung by the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history in 2010 and then overshadowed by the onshore fracking boom, is on the verge of its biggest supply surge ever, adding to the American oil renaissance.
Over the next three years, the Gulf is poised to deliver a slug of more than 700,000 barrels per day of new crude, reversing a decline in production and potentially rivaling shale hot spots like Texas’s Eagle Ford formation in terms of growth.
The revival began this summer, when Royal Dutch Shell‘s (RDSa.L) 100,000 barrels per day Olympus platform was towed out to sea 130 miles south of New Orleans – the first of seven new ultra-modern systems starting up through 2016. It weighs 120,000 tons, more than 200 Boeing 777 jumbo jets.
The Gulf Of Mexico’s growth will bolster the United States’ emerging role as the world’s top oil and gas producer, a trend led by advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that unlock hydrocarbons from tight rock reservoirs in places like North Dakota’s Bakken and the Permian of West Texas.
Rising domestic production and the start of natural gas exports may transform the economy and realign geopolitics as U.S. reliance on foreign oil declines.
The resurgence in the Gulf is occurring even though the U.S. government imposed stringent safety and environmental rules after BP Plc‘s (BP.L) Macondo spill. Foreign countries from Brazil to Angola have also aggressively courted Big Oil to invest in developing their offshore fields. And the shale boom has diverted billions of dollars in capital onshore.
The deepwater Gulf, considered the most technically challenging offshore oil patch, remains alluring even as other areas struggle. Brazil attracted only a single bid this month for its once-touted Libra field, yet global companies still compete fiercely for the right to drill in the Gulf.
“A barrel of discovered oil in the Gulf of Mexico is difficult to beat for value anywhere else, even with the increased costs of doing business,” said Jez Averty, senior vice president of North American exploration at Norway’s Statoil (STL.OL).
Huge finds over the last decade – in what engineers call “elephant fields” that can produce for 25 years or more – are lifting growth in a basin some companies once abandoned, fearing it was drying up or its resources were beyond reach.
“This is still one of the premier oil and gas regions in the world and that’s why we’ve never left,” said Steve Thurston, vice president of Chevron Corp‘s (CVX.N) North American exploration and production division.
Even after decades of production in the Gulf, government estimates have shown that 48 billion barrels could still be recovered.
The area of the Gulf of Mexico where most of the new infrastructure will start up is in an ancient geological trend in its deepest waters 200 miles or more from shore known as the Lower Tertiary, estimated to hold 15 billion barrels of crude.
Appraisals in the Gulf’s Lower Tertiary have shown fields that could have half a billion barrels or more of oil, like Exxon Mobil Corp’s (XOM.N) Hadrian, estimated to hold up to 700 million barrels, or Anadarko Petroleum Corp‘s (APC.N) Shenandoah, which tests this year showed could hold up to three times more than initial estimates of 300 million barrels.
The potential bounty of massive deposits that can produce for a quarter century or more is what keeps players coming even though a single well that bores tens of thousands of feet through thick salt and rock to strike oil – or a dry hole – can cost $130 million or more.
By contrast, an onshore well costs about $8 million to drill – but may only produce a trickle of oil for a few years.
Chevron’s Jack/St. Malo project, which will tie a platform to the ocean floor 7,000 feet below the surface and tap a reservoir 26,000 feet deep, costs $7.5 billion.
It may become the biggest such platform in the world after shipping out later this year, with the ability to double its initial 170,000 bpd capacity. It will be followed next year by Chevron’s second new platform, Big Foot, to be secured to the sea floor by 16 miles of interlocking metal strands, or tendons.
In addition to projects by Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N) and Williams Cos (WMB.N), private equity firm Blackstone Energy Partners will join the game. In 2015, Blackstone’s partner LLOG Exploration aims to start up Delta House – named for the boisterous fraternity in the film “Animal House” – less than 10 miles from BP’s plugged Macondo well.
Delta House will pump oil from the Marmalard and Bluto fields, namesakes of characters in the movie.
CLEAR AND STABLE RULES
Three years ago, some analysts thought the post-Macondo Gulf would have fewer players as stricter regulations and higher operating chilled activity, particularly for smaller companies.
Producers must now provide more detailed plans for offshore operations, submit to more frequent inspections and prove they have access to a rapid-response system to cap a gushing well. More than 4 million barrels of oil poured into the sea for 87 days after the Macondo well blowout killed 11 men.
High costs have given some companies pause. Even as BP began appraisal drilling at its self-described “giant” Tiber field this August, a month later it canceled contracts to build a second platform at its Mad Dog field. BP says it wants to move forward on Mad Dog 2 “with the right plan.”
Many others are pressing ahead full steam.
“It hasn’t scared us away,” John Hollowell, Shell’s top deepwater executive for Shell Upstream Americas said, noting deepwater is one-third of Shell’s growth platform, alongside natural gas and unconventional areas like onshore shales.
Hess Corp (HES.N) Chief Executive John Hess has told analysts the company, which operates one oil and gas platform in the Gulf with another on the way next year, also aims to increase its exploration in the deep waters.
“It’s a core area for us and now that Macondo is behind the industry, it is an area where we intend to start investing more, assuming we get the returns that we expect,” he said.
Companies say the Gulf is still the best deepwater basin to set up shop – with high profit margins, reasonable per-barrel costs and a predictable legal and regulatory system.
Operators can bring in their own workers rather than employ a certain number from the host country, as they do in Brazil – where just finding enough qualified workers is a hurdle.
Gulf operators also do not have to brace themselves for sudden changes in royalty requirements or possibly be blocked from bidding on drilling rights, as has happened in Angola.
To get in the Gulf of Mexico’s door, they put in the highest bid when the government leases drilling rights.
“All you have to do is show up at the lease sale,” Statoil’s Averty said.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
The drillship is expected to be delivered at the end of the second quarter 2014 and operate in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico starting in the late third quarter 2014. The Rowan Resolute is one of four ultra-deepwater drillships being constructed for Rowan by Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (“HHI”) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea.
With the award of this contract for the Rowan Resolute, two of the Company’s four ultra-deepwater drillships under construction at HHI are now under contract. The remaining two uncontracted drillships are scheduled to be delivered from the shipyard at the end of October 2014 and March 2015.
Rowan, in its fleet status report, said that the day rate for the contract is in the high $600.000s.
Rig contract in Indonesia
Also, the company has informed it has secured a 170 day contract with Pertamina Hulu Energi for Gorilla II rig in Indonesia at a day rate in the high $160s (above previous day rate in the mid $130s) expected to commence operation in September 2013.
Further in the report for June 2013, Rowan said it has sold the Rowan Paris rig for $40 million in June 2013.
Offshore Energy Today Staff, June 20, 2013
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE: APC) today announced its Phobos-1 well in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico encountered approximately 250 net feet of high-quality oil pay in Lower Tertiary-aged reservoirs.
“Our 2013 Gulf of Mexico exploration program is off to an outstanding start, as Phobos marks our third significant deepwater success this year,” Anadarko Sr. Vice President International and Deepwater Exploration Bob Daniels said. “Phobos is our first well in the previously untested Sigsbee Escarpment area of the Gulf of Mexico and successfully tested a significant four-way structure in the Lower Tertiary. Phobos’ close proximity to our Lucius project is expected to further enhance the economics of this potential future development.”
The Phobos discovery, located in Sigsbee Escarpment block 39, was drilled to a total depth of 28,675 feet in approximately 8,500 feet of water, approximately 11 miles south of Anadarko’s Lucius discovery, which is under development. Anadarko currently is incorporating the data from the Phobos well to determine future activities.
Anadarko is the operator of the Phobos discovery with a 30-percent working interest. Other co-owners in Phobos are Plains Exploration & Production Company with a 50-percent working interest and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) with a 20-percent working interest.
The Walker Ridge Block 98 Well No. 1 encountered more than 400 feet (122 m) of net pay. The well is located approximately 190 miles (308 km) off the Louisiana coast in 6,127 feet (1,868 m) of water and was drilled to a depth of 31,866 feet (9,713 m).
“The Coronado discovery demonstrates how Chevron is achieving its strategy of superior exploration performance,” said George Kirkland, vice chairman, Chevron Corporation. “The discovery adds to our global portfolio of high-quality opportunities for future growth.”
“The Coronado discovery continues our string of exploration successes in the Lower Tertiary Trend, where Chevron is advancing multiple projects,” said Gary Luquette, president, Chevron North America Exploration and Production Company. “It also highlights the importance of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico as a source of domestic energy for the United States.”
The well results are still being evaluated, and additional work is needed to determine the extent of the resource. Chevron, with a 40 percent working interest in the prospect, is the operator of the Coronado discovery well. Other owners are ConocoPhillips with 35 percent, a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation with 15 percent and Venari Offshore LLC with 10 percent.
Chevron is one of the largest leaseholders in the Gulf of Mexico and is currently constructing the Jack/St. Malo and Big Foot projects, which are scheduled to begin production in 2014.The company is also conducting appraisal activities at its previously announced Buckskin and Moccasin discoveries, also in the Lower Tertiary Trend.
Cobalt International Energy, Inc. on Tuesday announced extraordinary results from its Shenandoah #2R appraisal well, located in Walker Ridge Block 51, and provided an update on its North Platte #1 exploratory well, located in Garden Banks 959, both located in the Inboard Lower Tertiary Trend, deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
At Shenandoah, the well’s operator announced today that the Shenandoah #2R appraisal well encountered more than 1,000 net feet of oil pay in multiple high quality Lower Tertiary-aged reservoirs. Log and pressure data from both the Shenandoah appraisal well and the 2009 Shenandoah discovery well indicate the presence of exceptionally high quality reservoirs and hydrocarbons.
The appraisal well was drilled as a straight hole to a total depth of 31,405 feet in approximately 5,800 feet of water, about 1.3 miles southwest and approximately 1,700 feet structurally down-dip from the Shenandoah #1 discovery well, in order to test the down-dip extent of the Shenandoah field. Well results indicate that the targeted sands were full to base with no evidence of oil-water contacts. The Shenandoah #1 discovery well was drilled in early 2009 on Walker Ridge Block 52 and encountered more than 300 net feet of Inboard Lower Tertiary oil pay.
North Platte #1
Cobalt, as operator, provided an update confirming that the North Platte #1 exploratory well encountered over 550 net feet of oil pay in multiple high quality Inboard Lower Tertiary reservoirs. This compares to DeGolyer and MacNaughton’s pre-drill estimate for net pay of 350 feet. North Platte is located in approximately 4,400 feet of water and was drilled to a total depth of approximately 34,500 feet. Cobalt completed a bypass coring operation on North Platte #1 and has since temporarily abandoned the discovery well. In addition, Cobalt has begun the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art 3D seismic survey over the greater North Platte field and the majority of its prospects in the immediate area. Evaluation of this data will be ongoing throughout 2013. Appraisal plans for North Platte will be determined later in the year, as well.
Cobalt is currently drilling its Ardennes #1 exploratory well in Green Canyon 896. Ardennes is targeting both Miocene and Inboard Lower Tertiary reservoirs. Results are expected sometime mid-year 2013. DeGolyer and MacNaughton estimates Ardennes to have potential resources greater than 500 million barrels gross oil equivalent.
“The exceptional results of both the Shenandoah #2R appraisal well and the North Platte #1 exploratory well further substantiate our regional model of the prolific potential of the Inboard Lower Tertiary Trend,” said Joseph H. Bryant, Cobalt’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “We believe that our material working interests in these two significant Inboard Lower Tertiary fields will be the source of tremendous value for our shareholders. Our deep portfolio of prospects on trend with these two fields bodes well for our future growth in the Gulf of Mexico. These recent results and our bright future are a testament to our commitment to the people and technology required to succeed in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico subsalt trends.”
Cobalt is the operator and holds a 60 percent working interest in North Platte. TOTAL E&P USA, INC. is Cobalt’s partner in North Platte with a 40 percent working interest. Cobalt is the operator and holds a 42 percent working interest in Ardennes. Partners in Ardennes include ConocoPhillips (30 percent working interest) and TOTAL E&P USA, INC. (28 percent working interest). In Shenandoah, Cobalt holds a 20 percent working interest. Partners in Shenandoah include Anadarko Petroleum Corporation , as operator (30 percent working interest), ConocoPhillips (30 percent working interest), Venari Resources LLC (10 percent working interest) and Marathon Oil Company (10 percent working interest).