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MMS Calls For 'Robust' Gulf Drilling

MMS Calls For 'Robust' Gulf Drilling

If the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is correct, the Gulf of Mexico has a growing role to play in meeting the nation's demand for natural gas. The agency presented results of a study evaluating the role of the federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in supplying future U.S. gas demand at a symposium held in Houston last week.

Predictions by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the National Petroleum Council indicate U.S. gas demand could reach 30 Tcf by 2010. The 1998 gas production, including synthetic gas, in the U.S. was only 19 Tcf. About 3 Tcf of imports from Canada and a minuscule LNG import (0.1 Tcf) met gas demand for that year, MMS said. Planners are concerned about where the additional 11 Tcf of supply is to come from.

At present, more than a quarter of the nation's gas production comes from the OCS, primarily the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Most comes from the Continental Shelf (from less than 200 meters of water). However, production from the slope and deeper water is steadily increasing. Concerns have been expressed that the production decline rate, which has been cited as high as 50% for the Shelf, may significantly reduce production from the GOM. An analysis of production data for the last ten years dispels that notion, MMS said.

While production rates from earlier completions have declined significantly, higher production from newer completions offsets any decline. The per-completion production rate for non-associated gas has remained steady at around 1Bcf per completion, and the production rate of the associated gas has increased steadily during the last 10 years from about 0.11 MMcf to about 0.16 MMcf per completion.

More than 75% of total GOM monthly production comes from completions that are 4 years old or younger. To sustain or increase production, a robust drilling and completion rate needs to be maintained. The present gas and oil price and the availability of good prospects ensure such an activity, MMS said. The agency speculated gas production from the Gulf may grow from 5.1 Tcf/year to a maximum of 6.7 Tcf by 2012.

Joe Fisher, Houston

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