New Orleans-based McMoRan Exploration Co. plans to seek permission from the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service to drill deeper on the Blackbeard West prospect, located on the Treasure Island play in the Outer Continental Shelf.

McMoRan wants to drill to 35,000 feet, an ultra-deep well that would surpass its permitted 33,000-foot depth. The well currently is drilled to 31,943 feet. Former operator ExxonMobil Corp., which spud the well in 2004, began drilling in August 2006 and at that time it said it wanted to drill the world’s deepest well. However, ExxonMobil encountered higher-than-expected pressure at the site and suspended the operation (see Daily GPI, Aug. 18, 2006).

Still, analysts are keeping their eyes on prospects in the shelf’s deep waters. Wood Mackenzie’s upstream research group three years ago said multiple 1-4 Tcf-sized fields may be discovered on the shelf if producers take the risks and spend the money (see Daily GPI, April 13, 2005).

McMoRan, which specializes in deep drilling in the shallow Gulf of Mexico (GOM), acquired a 32.3% stake last year in the Blackbeard West prospect and is the operator. A consortium of stakeholders holding interests includes Plains Exploration & Production Co. (35%) and Energy XXI Ltd. (20%).

The company also said its fourth well was successful at its Flatrock field in the GOM South Marsh Island Block 212. The producer began drilling the prospect in early April and has reached 15,315 feet, it said. Energy analysts consider the Flatrock discovery to potentially be one of the largest ever in the shallow GOM waters. McMoRan already has drilled two successful wells in the Flatrock area. The initial discovery well came online in January at a gross rate of 50 MMcfe/d. The Flatrock No. 2 well was tested at a gross rate of 114 MMcfe/d and is expected to begin production by the end of July, the producer said.

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