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Lloyds List: Shell set to break water depth records with Perdido development

Published: Oct 31, 2006

SHELL will be breaking several water depth records with its Perdido development project in the US Gulf of Mexico including taking subsea completions to new depths, writes Martyn Wingrove.

The Anglo-Dutch oil major will be working with California-based Chevron and British oil group BP to develop three fields in ultra deepwaters in the Alaminos Canyon area.

Shell will be operator of the Perdido regional development and will instal the world’s deepest production spar over the Great White oil field and then will tie back Tobago and Silvertip oil fields as satellites.

The direct vertical access spar platform will be tethered to the seafloor in water depths of around 8,000 ft or 2.4 km, 200 miles south of Freeport, Texas and will be connected to the US coast by new oil and gas export pipelines.

The platform will have a drilling system and production capacity to export 100,000 barrels of oil and 20m cu ft of associated gas per day, said a Shell spokesman.

The subsea facilities linking the Tobago field to the spar platform will be the world’s deepest subsea completions in water depths of some 9,600 ft, he added.

The whole project will be a benchmark for new ultra-deepwater projects as it is in depths of 2,270 to 3,000 m and will drive onwards the development of subsea and floating production technology for ultra-deepwaters.

‘We are now well positioned to develop energy supplies that were not within our reach even 10 years ago,’ said Chevron’s executive vice-president for upstream and gas operations George Kirkland.

Shell’s executive vice-president for exploration and production work in North and South America Marvin Odum said the project’s other challenge is the rugged seafloor terrain and reservoir geology.

‘To accomplish this record-breaking feat, we will apply cutting edge technology, engineering expertise and industry leadership,’ he said.

‘This geological setting is different from what has previously been produced in the Gulf of Mexico and will establish the first production from the lower Tertiary play in the Gulf of Mexico.’

The partners have reached their final investment decision for the Perdido project and will commence the front-end engineering and design phase, said a Shell spokesman.

It is thought engineering is under way by Technip on the spar hull, while Alliance Engineering is working on the topside designs.

Texas-based contractor Kiewit Offshore Services is thought to be in the lead to fabricate the platform topsides.

The project will also require more than 30 wells throughout the life of the three fields and in the long term the spar platform could be the host of other satellites.

Shell will have a 35% stake in the host spar platform, Chevron a 37.5% and BP a 27.5% interest.

Discovered in 2002, Great White is one of the region’s largest oil discoveries in Alaminos Canyon blocks 812, 813, 814, 857, 900 and 901.

Tobago was drilled in 9,600 ft of water in Alaminos Canyon block 859 in 2004 and Silvertip was discovered in that year in block 815 and in 9,200 ft of water.

US major Chevron claims to be at the forefront of efforts to develop the resources of the lower Tertiary, after its acquisition of Unocal last year.

It now operates the Tiger and Trident oil discoveries in the Perdido Foldbelt area, close to Mexican waters.

Chevron is the leading acreage holder in the lower Tertiary, which includes being operator of the large Jack discovery, tested this summer.

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