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Thunder Horse, considered the world's largest semisubmersible platform, has begun production in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) from a single well and is on track to be fully commissioned before the end of 2008 following a three-year delay. The platform is jointly owned by BP plc, with a 75% stake, and ExxonMobil Corp., which holds 25%. Located 150 miles southeast of New Orleans on Mississippi Canyon Blocks 778 and 822, Thunder Horse is expected to be the largest oil and gas producer in the GOM once it begins full production. At full capacity, Thunder Horse would increase overall U.S. oil and gas output by 3.6%. Thunder Horse was to begin operations in 2005 and produce up to 250,000 b/d of oil and 200 MMcf/d of natural gas. However, the BP-operated facility has suffered from a series of natural and man-made delays. After Hurricane Dennis struck the platform in 2005, the platform was found listing 20 degrees, and BP said then it was unlikely that commercial production would begin before the end of 2005 (see NGI, Aug. 1, 2005). Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, also in 2005, the Thunder Horse ramp-up timetable was again revised; production was set to begin by mid-2006 (see NGI, Dec. 5, 2005). A year later BP said it would "retrieve and rebuild" all of the seabed production equipment from the Thunder Horse field, and the start-up was pushed to this year (see NGI, Sept. 25, 2006).

Building up its Louisiana natural gas storage assets, Cardinal Gas Storage Partners LLC has acquired two storage development projects from CenterPoint Energy Gas Transmission Co. (CEGT) an indirect, wholly owned interstate natural gas pipeline subsidiary of CenterPoint Energy Inc., for an undisclosed price. The projects, located near the Perryville Hub in north Louisiana, include a salt dome project and a depleted reservoir project. The salt dome project, Perryville Gas Storage, is expected to consist of up to 22.5 Bcf of high-deliverability working gas capacity with multiple interconnects, including CEGT's Perryville Hub header system near Delhi, LA. Cardinal said it expects commencement of operations in 2012 and recently said a nonbinding open season will begin June 23. The depleted reservoir project, Cadeville Gas Storage, is expected to consist of up to 16.5 Bcf of working capacity with three major interconnects and potential for up to four-turn capability. Cardinal expects commencement of operations in 2011. Cardinal, a joint venture of Energy Capital Partners and Martin Resource Management Corp., is focused on the development, construction, operation and management of gas storage facilities throughout North America. Through subsidiary Arcadia Gas Storage LLC, Cardinal is developing a 13.8 Bcf salt cavern facility near Arcadia, LA.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Goodrich Petroleum Corp. have agreed to jointly develop Goodrich's Haynesville Shale acreage in the Bethany-Longstreet and Longwood fields of Caddo and DeSoto Parishes, LA. Chesapeake, which is considered the largest leaseholder in the Haynesville play, agreed to pay Goodrich $178 million for the deep rights to 10,250 net acres of leasehold. The transaction would give Chesapeake a 20% working interest in 25,000 net acres in the Bethany-Longstreet field and a 50% working interest in 10,500 net acres in the Longwood field. Chesapeake also agreed to purchase 7,500 net acres of deep rights in the Bethany-Longstreet field from a third party for an undisclosed sum, which would bring its ownership interest in the deep rights in both fields to 50% each for Goodrich and Chesapeake. Chesapeake would operate the development. Goodrich would retain the shallow rights (through the base of the Cotton Valley sand) and the existing production and reserves with respect to its 70% interest in the Bethany-Longstreet field and its 100% interest in the Longwood field and it would retain its stake in both the shallow and Haynesville Shale rights on all of its East Texas assets. The transaction is scheduled to close by July 15. Horizontal development is slated to begin this summer with one rig dedicated to the play; a second rig is to be added in the last three months of the year.

An ongoing legal dispute will delay Royal Dutch Shell's plans to drill for oil and natural gas in the Beaufort Sea offshore Alaska through the rest of the year, the oil major said. The bin early 2007 approved a drilling plan by affiliate Shell Offshore Inc., and Shell was scheduled to begin drilling some exploration wells last summer (see NGI, July 23, 2007). However, a lawsuit filed by several environmental groups, area stakeholders and the North Slope Borough scuttled Shell's plans. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco last August blocked Shell's drilling, and it has yet to issue a ruling on whether it may proceed (see NGI, Aug. 20, 2007). "This lack of decision has delayed drilling for another year -- extending the timeline it will take to bring this much-needed U.S. production on-line," said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith.

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