An exploration well in the eastern deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is showing higher-than-expected natural gas pay, an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. executive said last week.

Senior Vice President Chuck Meloy, who runs worldwide operations for the Houston super independent, disclosed the news during a presentation at the Jefferies & Co. 2011 Global Energy Conference in Houston.

“Cheyenne East had 50 feet of high-quality natural gas pay, higher than our initial estimates,” Meloy said. Production is slated to ramp up in 2012.

Anadarko holds full interest in Cheyenne East, which is the first discovery announced by the company since the GOM deepwater drilling moratorium was lifted. A permit to drill the Cheyenne East well was the first one Anadarko obtained after the moratorium was lifted.

Anadarko had been a 25% stakeholder in BP plc’s doomed Macondo well, the blowout of which prompted the drilling moratorium.

Once Cheyenne East is producing, Anadarko plans to tie it into the Independence Hub, which flows gas from several deepwater GOM fields. The hub, in 8,000 feet of water on Mississippi Canyon Block 920, is operated by Anadarko and is able to produce up to 1 Bcf/d of gas. The hub, which is about 123 miles southeast of Biloxi, MS, is considered the largest deepwater gas production platform ever installed and the world’s largest offshore gas processing facility.

Gas production began at the Independence Hub in 2007 from the first of 15 subsea wells in 10 anchor fields. Enterprise Products Partners LLC in November reported that gas volumes from the hub and its connected Independence Trail pipeline were 429 billion Btu/d in 3Q2011, down from 489 billion Btu/d in 3Q2010.

In addition to Cheyenne East, Anadarko also is drilling the prospective Heidelberg and Nansen projects in the GOM deepwater, Meloy said. Assuming it can obtain new offshore permits from federal officials, Anadarko is planning a “big” program in 2012, he said.

The next “mega project” for Anadarko in the GOM is Lucius in Keathley Canyon Block 875, which holds more than 300 million boe of gross resources, Meloy said. Anadarko holds a 35% stake in Lucius, in which it partners with Apache Corp. and Plains Exploration & Production Co.

The partners and ExxonMobil Corp., which anchors other discoveries in Keathley Canyon, in July finalized a unitization agreement to jointly develop portions of the field (see NGI, July 25). Development of the massive project, which is estimated to cost $2 billion, is under way; the offshore platform will be able to produce 80,000 b/d of oil and 450 MMcf/d of gas, Meloy said.

First production from the Lucius facility is planned in 2014 and the region holds “additional exploration opportunities.”

The Cheyenne East discovery follow Anadarko’s announcement last week that it had doubled its estimates for natural gas in Offshore Area 1 from a discovery well offshore Mozambique after encountering gas at an appraisal well. The recoverable resource estimate was revised to 30 Tcf of gas from an earlier estimate of 15 Tcf.

The Mozambique discovery, which Anadarko operates with a 36.6% stake, may be among the most significant gas fields uncovered in the past 10 years, according to CEO Jim Hackett. Anadarko’s long-term strategy for the Mozambique prospect is to bring the gas to market by 2018 via a liquefied natural gas development facility. Initial plans are to construct two trains, which could be extended to six.

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