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)
Halliburton announced today the successful completion of three wells in the Deep Water Gulf of Mexico utilizing Halliburton’s Enhanced Single-Trip Multizone (ESTMZ™) FracPac™ System.
ESTMZ™ downhole tool system enables the operator to stimulate and gravel pack multiple production zones in a single trip. Designed for use in Dee Water and Ultra-Deep Water offshore completions, the ESTMZ™ system allows the highest treating rate with the greatest volume of proppant in the industry.
Halliburton developed the multi-zone completion technology in collaboration with Chevron U.S.A. Inc. The two companies conducted numerous system integration tests and two field trials to prove the technology.
The time savings realized for each of the three Chevron-operated wells completed with the ESTMZ™ system averaged 18 days, equating to approximately $22 million.
“ESTMZ™ system allows more reservoir to be stimulated in a shorter amount of time, thus increasing efficiency, reliability and production, which is key to the success of the Lower Tertiary,” said Ron Shuman, Senior Vice President of Halliburton’s Southern and Gulf of Mexico regions.
“In addition, this system allows us to deliver a very aggressive stimulation with rates up to 45 barrels per minute and volumes greater than 400,000 pounds of 16/30 high strength proppant. We deliver this with weighted frac fluid and 10,000 horsepower per interval for up to five intervals, providing a total cumulative proppant volume of greater than two million pounds per well with one service tool. Having to make multiple runs in and out of the wellbore equates to a large expense for operators. The ‘single trip’ element of this system provides significant time savings with improved reliability and better asset optimization,” Shuman concluded.
Providing wellbore assurance through various critical operations such as wellbore cleanout, completion services, pumping and fluids also contributed to the success of these three wells. This integrated approach in planning and execution mitigated risks while promoting efficiency and providing an optimal conduit for the reservoir to flow.
The proven reliability of Halliburton’s ESTMZ™ tool system and the continual evolution of these smart technologies are critical to the changing landscape in the Gulf of Mexico. To date, Halliburton has successfully deployed nearly 20 ESTMZ™ systems around the globe including the Asia Pacific region.
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.
Chevron Corporation today announced that it had conducted a successful production test on the St. Malo PS003 well in the prolific Lower Tertiary trend in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Oil flow rates, though limited by testing equipment constraints, exceeded 13,000 barrels of oil per day.
The test, in Walker Ridge Block 678, targeted Lower Tertiary sands more than 20,000 feet (6,096 m) under the sea floor and was conducted during August and September 2012. This is the first development well in the St. Malo field, which is being jointly developed with the Jack field.
“The well test is a further demonstration of the potential of the Lower Tertiary and highlights our leadership in developing deepwater resources globally,” said Chevron Vice Chairman George Kirkland.
“The results of this production test further confirm the significance of the St. Malo field,” said Gary Luquette, president, Chevron North America Exploration and Production Company. “The jointly developed Jack and St. Malo fields are expected to provide a major step-up in Chevron’s production from 2014 and produce domestic energy for decades to come.”
The Jack and St. Malo fields are located within 25 miles (40 km) of each other and are being jointly developed with a host floating production unit located between the two fields in 7,000 feet (2,134 m) of water, approximately 280 miles (450 km) south of New Orleans, Louisiana. The facility is planned to have a design capacity of 177,000 barrels of oil-equivalent per day to accommodate production from the Jack/St. Malo development, which is estimated at a maximum total daily rate of 94,000 barrels of oil-equivalent, plus production from third-party tiebacks. Total project costs for the initial phase of the development are estimated at $7.5 billion.
Chevron has a working interest of 51 percent in the St. Malo field. Other owners of the St. Malo field are Petrobras (25 percent), Statoil (21.5 percent), ExxonMobil (1.25 percent) and ENI (1.25 percent).
- Gulf of Mexico will be strongest offshore market, analysts say (fuelfix.com)
- Chevron Makes Big Discovery In Louisana – And It’s Not Even Done Drilling Yet (forbes.com)
- Heading for Ingleside,TX: Largest Heavy Transport Vessel for Largest Offshore Platform Hull (mb50.wordpress.com)
- InterMoor Completes IRIS Installation and Recovery for Apache in Gulf of Mexico, USA (mb50.wordpress.com)
Sept. 21, 2012, 1:04 p.m. EDT By Melodie Warner
Seadrill Partners LLC filed plans for an initial public offering estimated at up to $225 million.
The limited liability company was formed by Norwegian oil-services company Seadrill Ltd. (SDRL, SDRL.OS) to own, operate and acquire offshore drilling rigs.
Seadrill Partners said it will use the proceeds to buy from Seadrill Ltd. interests in Seadrill Operating LP and Seadrill Capricorn Holdings LLC, which own and operate Seadrill Partners’s offshore drilling rigs.
After the planned offering, Seadrill Partners said it will own a 30% stake in Seadrill Operating and a 51% stake in Seadrill Capricorn Holdings.
The company said its drilling rigs are under long-term contracts with major oil companies, such as Chevron Corp. (CVX), Total S.A. (TOT, FP.FR), BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), with an average remaining term of 3.1 years as of June 30, according to its regulatory filing.
Seadrill Partners said its profit rose 5.6% to $93.9 million as revenue increased 11% to $275.2 million for the six months ended June 30.
The company has applied to list its common units on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SDLP.
Seadrill Ltd. reported last month its second-quarter earnings fell 14% as higher operating expenses masked the company’s 13% rise in revenue.