The $3.5 billion Tahiti project in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, which was scheduled to ramp-up in mid-2008, will be delayed for an unknown period because of metallurgical problems discovered in the facility's mooring shackles, Chevron Corp. said Thursday. Tahiti's peak production is expected to be 125,000 b/d of oil and 70 MMcf/d of natural gas.

According to Chevron, initial quality control testing of the existing shackles did not identify a problem. However, additional testing was ordered after Chevron's contractor discovered a metallurgical problem with shackles on a similar installation for another company. Metallurgical problems were subsequently discovered in the Tahiti shackles as well. To ensure the facility's safety and reliability, Chevron has begun the process to order new shackles and plan their installation.

Steel shackles are used to connect various components of a mooring line. Mooring lines connect the spar to anchors (pilings) on the sea floor. The shackles are not part of the spar hull, so this issue does not impact the spar's integrity, Chevron noted.

Tahiti, which was discovered in 2002 by Chevron in the Green Canyon Block, is located about 140 miles offshore and 190 miles south of New Orleans. Major components of the project are nearing completion, and work on their installation is expected to continue once timing for new shackles is determined. Construction of the floating production facility, which will be moored in 4,000 feet of water, began in late 2005 (see NGI, Nov. 14, 2005).

Chevron owns 58% of the Tahiti project and is the operator. Statoil ASA, which has since merged with Norsk Hydro ASA, bought a 25% stake in the project from EnCana Corp. in 2005 (see NGI, May 2, 2005). Shell Oil Co. owns a 17% stake.

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