Shell to develop deepest oil platform

2013-05-09 08:30
Jan Willem Egginck of Shell has urged responsible fracking in the Karoo. (Shell)

Jan Willem Egginck of Shell has urged responsible fracking in the Karoo. (Shell)

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London - Royal Dutch Shell said on Wednesday it will go ahead with the world's deepest offshore oil and gas production project, pushing the boundaries of technology to produce from nearly 3.2km down in the Gulf of Mexico.

Coming three years after the Macondo oil spill disaster, Shell targets first production by 2016, demonstrating confidence in big offshore projects in spite of a downturn in oil prices.

Earlier this week, Exxon Mobil Corp flagged start-up for a $4bn project to develop the Julia oilfield, about 64km west of Stones in the Gulf's deepest waters.

But April, BP decided to delay development of its biggest new project there, Mad Dog Phase 2, citing tough market conditions and rising costs, raising questions about the possibility of wholesale project cancellations.

"We're excited about the opportunity," said John Hollowell, executive vice president for Deepwater, Shell Upstream Americas. "We're ready to execute the project."

He declined to disclose the project's cost.


Shell's 100%-owned Stones field was discovered in 2005, some 320km southwest of New Orleans. It encompasses eight lease blocks in the Gulf of Mexico's Lower Tertiary trend, which is the Gulf's deepest, most challenging and most promising play estimated to hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil.

The Anglo-Dutch company's Perdido platform was the first to start up in the Lower Tertiary in 2010.

Perdido, in 2 438m of water, is at present the world's deepest producing offshore project. That is 60% deeper than Macondo, the BP well which ruptured in April 2010 in an accident that killed 11 men and spewed crude into the sea for nearly three months.

Stones is deeper than Perdido at 2 896m.

Production during the first phase of Stones is expected to peak at 50 000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day, Shell said, but the project is multi-phase, and is estimated to have two billion barrels of oil equivalent in place.

The lure of offshore development is a strong one, despite the expense and risk.

"Ultra-deep" wells, drilled in water at least 1.5km deep, and often into several more kilometres of rock to the reservoir below, accounted for around half of all the world's new discoveries in the first half of last year.

Data from analysts at IHS shows the average ultra-deep exploration well adds 140 million boe to reserves, making them 11.5 times more effective than an onshore rig. At $100 a barrel, that amounts to $14bn worth of oil per discovery - enough to repay almost half of Shell's capital spending budget this year.
Read more on:    royal dutch shell  |  environment

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