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BP's Deepwater Fiber Optic Network to be Operational in late 2007

BP America Inc. is moving forward on plans to construct an 800-mile undersea fiber optic system in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The system, announced earlier this year (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25), is expected to be operational in late 2007, offering continuous broadband connectivity to offshore oil and gas facilities. Eventually, the system could alleviate some storm-related shut ins.

Initially, the 1,400-kilometer system, in water up to 6,000-feet deep, will link seven of BP's deepwater production facilities: Marlin, Horn Mountain, Na Kika, Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Holstein. The GOM network, built offshore between Freeport, TX, and Pascagoula, MS, will incorporate an upgrade capability designed to support 64 platforms, and excess bandwidth will be made commercially available for third-party deepwater operators. Several producers already have expressed an interest in the system, including Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Corp.

"This $80 million investment will allow early evacuation of our offshore staff whilst keeping critical energy supplies flowing as well as improving our operating efficiency and operability year round," said BP's Kenny Lang, vice president of GOM operations. "During routine operations, the fiber optic network will allow each of BP's new cutting edge technology centers in Houston to remotely apply high level technical expertise to our offshore producing facilities. The large bandwidth provided by the network will enable staff in the Houston centers to monitor offshore digital operating and safety equipment, which will contribute to faster problem resolution for our operations."

The deepwater facilities will link to new Advanced Collaborative Environment (ACE) centers in Houston. Each facility will have direct optical connectivity to Houston through two independent routes, ensuring continued operations that are independent of any other facility in the system during hurricane events. Eventually, the network could make it possible for staff onshore to remotely control offshore facilities, alleviating some downtime from shut ins, BP said.

Tyco Telecommunications, a business unit of Tyco Electronics, has been contracted to construct the undersea system for an undisclosed amount. Tyco has manufactured and installed more than 80 undersea fiber optic systems around the world.

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