OTC: MMS confirms expansion into deepwater
Deepwater leases last year produced 70% of the oil and 40% of the natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, the US Minerals Management Service said in a report released May 1 at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.
Senior Staff Writer
HOUSTON, May 1 -- Deepwater leases last year produced 70% of the oil and 40% of the natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, the US Minerals Management Service said in a report released May 1 at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.
The report, "Deepwater Gulf of Mexico 2007: Interim Report of 2006 Highlights" said oil and gas operators announced 12 deepwater discoveries in 2006, with the deepest in 7,600 ft of water.
More than half of the active oil and gas leases in the gulf are in more than 1,000 ft of water, which MMS defines as deep water.
"There's solid evidence in both leasing and exploration activities to confirm the oil and gas industry's continued interest and motivation to explore and develop the deepwater frontier in the Gulf of Mexico," Lars Herbst, acting GOM regional director, told reporters at an OTC news conference.
Leasing activity demonstrates increasing interest in deep water. From 2005 to 2006, the number of tracts in 1,500-4,999 ft of water receiving bids increased by 32%. The number of tracts in 5,000-7,499 ft of water receiving bids increased by 29%.
Another indicator of the industry's commitment to deepwater production is the number of technology approvals that MMS made in 2006 for use in deeper water depths.
"MMS granted 30 new technology approvals in 2006," noted Herbst. "This set a record for the number of approvals for first-time use of technology in deepwater."
Examples of technology advancements that MMS approved for use on federal leases during 2006 include:
-- A high integrity pressure protection system (HIPPS). Although a HIPPS system has not been proposed for a specific development, MMS did approve the general concept of a HIPPS system in July 2006. This safety feature allows the use of pipelines not rated for the well's full shut-in tubing pressure (SITP). The HIPPS employs valves, logic controllers, and pressure transmitters to protect the unrated section before the pipeline is over-pressured or ruptured (rather than relying simply on steel strength). A section of pipe upstream of the well and downstream of the HIPPS valves¿as well as a short section of pipe upstream of the HIPPS values¿will be rated to the full SITP.
-- The use of pre-set polyester moorings for deepwater drilling rigs. The use of polyester mooring lines on production facilities still is considered a new technology in the gulf even though it is common practice to use this type of mooring line on mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs). One stipulation for allowing the use of polyester moorings traditionally has been that the polyester moorings may not come in contact with the seafloor. Oil and gas companies wanted permission to pre-set the mooring lines because these lines can be inspected more frequently than for permanently fixed structures. After studying polyester moorings, MMS granted approval with the stipulation that the lines be inspected and tested every 6 months.
-- Various forms of subsea boosting such as a subsea pump allowing enhanced oil recovery. Shell Exploration and Production Co. proposed a separation and boosting system that will be separate production fluids at the seafloor and direct them to the surface host via a pump at the base of a production riser for use at Perdido development. BP Exploration & Production Inc. received approved to use electric subsea multi-phase pumps at King field. The pumps will boost operating system pressure, lowering flowing tubing pressures at each well. This increases flow rates, which will extend the field's life by an estimated 2 years and will increase ultimate recovery.
-- A conceptual plan for a floating production, storage, and offloading vessel. Petrobras America Inc. submitted a conceptual deepwater operations plan for installation of an FPSO with two wells in Cascade field and one well in Chinook field. Initial production from these fields is expected in 2009. A single point disconnectable turret mooring system will ensure the FPSO can leave in case of hurricanes. Another new technology involved was the use of free-standing hybrid risers.
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