MMS: Ultradeepwater gulf drilling remains strong

A record number of drilling rigs are currently working in the ultradeep water in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the US Minerals Management Service.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Aug. 15 -- A record number of drilling rigs are currently working in the ultradeep water in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the US Minerals Management Service. "For the first time, 15 rigs are drilling for oil and gas in 5,000 ft of water or greater in the gulf," said MMS director Randall Luthi.

And while drilling activity in deepwater remains strong, advances also have been made in the area of production. In July Atwater Valley Producers Group reported that natural gas production had begun from Independence Hub, a semisubmersible platform moored in 8,000 ft of water on Mississippi Canyon Block 920, 123 miles southeast of Biloxi, Miss., MMS said (OGJ Online, July 20, 2007).

When fully operational, Independence Hub platform, reportedly the world's deepest production platform ever installed as well as the largest offshore gas processing facility, will produce gas from 15 subsea wells. Before Independence Hub's start-up, MMS noted, the production facility in the deepest water was the Na Kika floating production system in 6,340 ft of water, operated by BP PLC.

Currently, 70% of the gulf's oil production comes from leases in water greater than 1,000 ft while 40% of the gulf's gas production comes from leases in those same water depths.

As of April, the gulf's production was estimated at 1.3 million b/d of oil and 7.7 bcfd of gas.

"As the industry continues its exploration in deeper waters, the availability of technology capable of operating in deeper water depths and more extreme conditions becomes an important issue," MMS said.

Several drilling rigs are being built for use in the deepwater gulf. These rigs under construction, which range from drillships to semisubmersibles, will be capable of operating in 12,000 ft of water or greater. Some of these rigs will be ready as early as summer 2008 and others are expected to be operational by second half 2009.

"The offshore oil and gas industry is facing frontier-like conditions and developing advanced technology to explore the ultradeep gulf waters in order to secure the nation's energy production," Luthi said.

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