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Tubular Bells Ramps Up in Deepwater GOM

The Tubular Bells facility in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM), designed to deliver from three wells in Mississippi Canyon, has started up 50,000 boe/d from the first floating production system (FPS) built entirely in the United States.

The facility, 135 miles southeast of New Orleans in 4,300 feet of water, is operated by Hess Corp. (57.14%) with joint partner partner Chevron U.S.A. Inc. (42.86%). The discovery well was drilled in 2003 by Transocean Ltd.'s ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig. The project was sanctioned three years ago (see Daily GPIMay 26, 2011).

"This important achievement demonstrates our ability to successfully execute highly complex, deepwater development projects," said CEO John Hess. "One year after Hess took over as operator, the project was sanctioned and fast-tracked with an execution schedule to first oil in just three years."

The deepwater GOM "plays a significant part in our earnings and production growth," said Chevron Corp. upstream chief George Kirkland. "Achieving first oil at Tubular Bells is an important step toward Chevron achieving its production goal of 3.1 million boe/d by 2017."

The project's success is "the result of our strong business relationship with Hess, reinforcing our commitment to achieve results with excellence, and enabling new opportunities in this strategic area," said Chevron President Jeff Shellebarger, who runs the company's North America Exploration and Production Co

The Tubular Bells facility, estimated to cost more than $2.3 billion, is producing from the Miocene trend. The success of Tubular Bells encouraged Hess and three partners last month to sanction the deepwater Stampede Field; Hess also will serve as operator (see Daily GPIOct. 30).

Wood Mackenzie earlier this month said production in the deepwater GOM should hit a new peak of 1.9 million boe/d in 2016, driven by new developments and older field expansions, which would be the first time production would surpass the previous record in 2009 (see Daily GPINov. 13).

The FPS serving the field is a classic spar hull with traditional three-level topsides. The field has an estimated production life of 25 years.

The Gulfstar One FPS serves as the hub to aggregate production and provide export pipeline services, according to operator Williams Partners LP. The spar's hull was built by Gulf Marine Fabricators in Ingleside, Texas, while Gulf Island Fabrication Inc. constructed the topsides in Houma, LA. Marubenie Corp. jointly owns the FPS (49%) with the partnership, which owns the majority stake (see Daily GPIFeb. 7, 2013).

The FPS, which weighs about 24 tons total, is designed to deliver up to 60,000 b/d of oil and 132 MMcf/d of natural gas, with additional potential tieback capacity. Gulfstar serves as a hub that aggregates production and then combines production handling services with oil and gas export pipeline services, which feed Williams' downstream oil and gas gathering and processing services on the Gulf Coast. The spar's design and construction created about 7,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Williams partnership. "As intended, Gulfstar’s innovative design is connecting energy supplies with the best markets in North America," said Williams' Evan Kirchen, vice president of project execution, Atlantic-Gulf operating area.

In addition to anchor commitments from Hess and Chevron, Gulfstar late last year executed agreements for a tieback to the Gunflint field, also in Mississippi Canyon (see Daily GPI, June 18, 2013). The agreements are with operator Noble Energy Inc. (31.14%) and partners Ecopetrol America Inc. (31.5%), Marathon Oil Co. (18.23%) and Samson Offshore LLC (19.13%). The tieback is designed and engineered with modifications expected to be completed after the Gulfstar project is completed. Noble estimates Gunflint's reserves at 65-90 million boe (see Daily GPIMay 4, 2011).

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