MMS to hear evidence on FPSO use

US Minerals Management Service (MMS) officials are hosting a 2-day workshop June 7-8 in Houston to examine the successful use of floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels in other countries as a possible prelude to allowing their use in developing deepwater oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.


US Minerals Management Service officials are hosting a 2-day workshop June 7-8 in Houston to examine the successful use of floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels in other countries as a possible prelude to allowing their use in developing deepwater oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.

The purpose of the workshop is to identify successful practices, as well as operational and regulatory issues, in the use of such vessels to produce and store crude oil in waters beyond the offshore pipeline infrastructure. MMS officials said they also want to identify "mitigation measures or technology needs" to address any safety concerns.

It's part of an investigation process promised by MMS Director Walt Rosenbusch during the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston earlier this month. The MMS won't establish a policy on the use of FPSO vessels in the gulf until it has more information on which to base its decision, he said. But he also warned that the MMS won't permit prolonged flaring of natural gas in the gulf, including gas associated with oil produced by an FPSO. Nor will the agency allow associated gas to be reinjected, without guarantees that it eventually will be developed and produced.

Industry experts say the gulf's ultradeep waters, where FPSOs are most likely to be used, are more prone to oil than gas. However, other industry officials and the MMS say the deepwater gulf is already surpassing conventional shelf operations as the major US source of offshore gas in the future.

Although FPSOs are used in several other areas of the world, none has ever operated in US waters. And while many in the industry have talked about the potential use of FPSOs to produce deepwater oil deposits in the gulf, Rosenbusch says MMS has not yet received a single official proposal from an offshore operator.

The June workshop will be cosponsored by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and DeepStar, an industry cooperative established to develop new technology and techniques for deepwater exploration and development, including the use of FPSOs.

The first day of the workshop will include presentations from an invited international panel from Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, the UK, and Canada, as well as members from the MMS and the USCG. That will be followed by a session of panel discussions of issues; the panel will include industry representatives, FPSO contractors, and certification agencies.

The second day will include a series of technical sessions to discuss mitigation measures and technology needs.

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