Undeterred by low prices, oil and natural gas output from ultra-deepwater fields -- in water more than 1,000 meters deep -- should continue its growth to 2021, according to Douglas-Westwood (DW).

In its World Drilling and Production Forecast issued on Monday, the UK-based researchers said combined oil and gas production from ultra-deepwater fields would increase 7.7% year/year between now and 2021 to 10.2 million boe/d from 6.5 million boe/d. Natural gas production is expected to grow twice as quickly as oil and more than double to 2.5 million boe/d in 2021 from 1.1 million boe/d in 2015.

"This will come from the drilling of 1,470 ultra-deepwater wells, an increase of 68% on the seven years prior," the researchers said. "A key factor is that at these water depths, only the most highly productive plays are being targeted. Additionally, deepwater projects typically have funding secured several years ahead of first production."

While much of the growth in natural gas production is expected to come from established producers, some of the ultra-deepwater production may begin to be exploited in countries "off the deepwater grid," according to DW. Equatorial Guinea and Mozambique both are likely to see floating liquefied natural gas vessels begin operations on ultra-deepwater fields late this decade while Israel could see large volumes produced from greenfield developments and subsea tiebacks.

The leading deepwater area is the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM), DW said, with growth also expected from Angola, Brazil and Nigeria. The United States is forecast to see the strongest oil growth of the four with ultra-deepwater output set to climb to 1.7 million boe/d from 1.2 million b/d. Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in March said the deepwater GOM was proving to be a haven for big producing projects, with growth expected through 2016 (see Daily GPI, March 23).

The United States holds the lead in part because of 11 floating production platforms that are being brought online, including:

  • Anadarko Petroleum Corp.'s Lucius spar (see Daily GPI, March 30);
  • Chevron Corp.'s Jack/St. Malo floating production system (FPS) (see Daily GPI, Dec. 3, 2014; and
  • BP plc's Mad Dog Phase 2, also an FPS (see Daily GPI, Feb. 4, 2014).

Combined with continuing success by Petrobras in Brazil's pre-salt reservoirs, and West Africa's ultra-deepwater plays, the ultra-deepwater has "apparent resilience to the oil price downturn," DW researchers said.

DW expects $378 billion to be spent on FPS and subsea hardware over the next seven years. Forty-five percent of the spend is forecast to be spent on ultra-deepwater field infrastructure, "reflecting their importance in the global oil and gas supply picture."