Who knows what you will find these days when developing a new pipeline route? BP and Shell Gas Transmission reported late last week that while surveying a route for the proposed Okeanos Gas Pipeline, the companies stumbled across the long-sought wreckage of the German World War II submarine U-166 at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The U-166 was reportedly the only submarine sunk in the Gulf during the war.

The discovery was made in water almost one-mile deep by an unmanned submarine operated by C&C Technologies Inc., which was contracted by BP and Shell. It occurred while the group was conducting survey work on the Okeanos gas pipeline, a joint BP and Shell endeavor. The proposed Okeanos will transport natural gas to shore from the Na Kika and Crazy Horse ultra-deep water fields currently being developed.

After the submarine’s discovery, the companies reported the find to the U.S. government, which in turn notified the government of Germany. Shell and BP also informed the Minerals Management Service of the find and rerouted the proposed pipeline away from the site.

BP and Shell announced in mid-May the plans to build the $150 million ultra-deep water line to gather gas from fields that are 150 miles offshore in the Gulf (see Daily GPI, May 18). The 100-mile Okeanos gas pipeline will have a capacity of at least 1 Bcf/d and will be the first Gulf of Mexico gas pipeline built to operate in water depths exceeding 6,000 feet, making it the deepest gas gathering system in the Gulf.

The U-166 was resting near another World War II casualty that was previously discovered. The American passenger freighter S.S. Robert E. Lee, which was torpedoed and sunk by U-166 on July 30, 1942, lies approximately 5,000 feet southwest of the U-166’s wreckage site. The German submarine was thought to have been sunk a few days later by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol plane, but confirmation was never verified. The S.S. Robert E. Lee took 25 of its more than 400 passengers and crew members to the bottom with it, while the entire 52 member complement of U-166 is thought to have perished with the sub.

The wreckage of U-166 is located approximately 45 miles off the tip of the Mississippi River Delta in approximately 5,000 feet of water. German submarines operating in the area are thought to have sunk 56 Allied ships.

The Okeanos Gas Gathering Co. is owned by BP as operator with a 66.6% share, with Shell Gas Transmission holding the remaining 33.3%. The companies previously reported that the Okeanos line would be built in two phases beginning in 2002.

Construction of the first segment of the Okeanos line will be completed in time for the 2003 start-up of the Na Kika fields. Construction on the second segment is expected to be completed in 2005 in time for the start-up of the Crazy Horse field. The Crazy Horse field is the largest oil and gas discovery in the Gulf of Mexico and will be operated by BP.

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