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Shell Ramps Up Stones, Deepest FPSO System in GOM

The Stones development, the host facility for the world's deepest offshore oil and natural gas project to date, has begun producing in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), Royal Dutch Shell plc said Tuesday.

The floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facility for Stones features the world's deepest oil and gas production system, with subsea infrastructure located 9,500 feet below the water's surface. When it fully ramps up as expected at the end of 2017, the host facility would be able to produce 50,000 boe/d.

"Stones is the latest example of our leadership, capability, and knowledge which are key to profitably developing our global deep-water resources," said Shell's upstream director Andy Brown. "Our growing expertise in using such technologies in innovative ways will help us unlock more deepwater resources around the world."

Development is to start with two subsea production wells tied back to the FPSO vessel, followed later by six additional production wells. Multi-phase seafloor pumping is planned for a later phase to pump oil and gas from the seabed to the vessel, increasing recoverable volumes and production rates.

Stones, discovered in 2008 in water depths of more than 9,550 feet, was the only U.S. project on Shell's short list scheduled for start up this year (see Daily GPIFeb. 4; Sept. 8, 2014). The FPSO is Shell's 13th within its global deepwater portfolio.

Fully owned and operated by Shell, Stones is the oil major's second producing field from the Lower Tertiary Trend following startup of Perdido six years ago (see Daily GPIApril 5, 2010).

The Stones project, which features a more cost-effective well design with fewer materials and lower installation costs, is expected to deliver up to $1 billion reduction in well costs once all the producers are completed.

The FPSO employs an innovative "lazy wave" riser configuration, consisting of a steel catenary riser with buoyancy added with an arch bend to decouple the dynamic motions and subsequently increase riser performance. An ultra-deepwater mooring system was installed to maintain the location. Shell also used 3D printing during the design phase to develop prototypes of the detachable system to ensure safety and prevent schedule delays.

Also key in the installation are safety measures for potential storms. In the event of a severe storm or hurricane, it may disconnect and sail away from the field. Once the weather event has passed, the vessel would return and resume production.

Shell's global deepwater business now is considered the No. 1 growth priority over onshore oil or natural gas development (see Daily GPIJune 7). Current global offshore production is around 600,000 boe/d and is expected to increase to more than 900,000 boe/d by the early 2020s from already discovered, established reservoirs.

Three deepwater projects now are in the works, including Appomattox in the GOM, which is to be a floating production system (see Daily GPIJuly 1, 2015). Also under construction is Malikai in Malaysia and Coulomb Phase 2 in the GOM (see Daily GPIJuly 1, 2004).

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