A subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell and its partners Wednesday unlocked the first natural gas and oil from the Perdido Development in the Lower Tertiary Trend of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), now the world’s deepest offshore drilling and production facility.

The Perdido Development is able to produce annual peak production of more than 200 MMcf/d of gas and 100,000 b/d of oil. The first producing platform in the promising Lower Tertiary Trend, the development is in a frontier area in the deepest waters of the GOM and is furthest from shore (see Daily GPI, Oct. 27, 2006).

“Perdido is an impressive project in a strong Gulf of Mexico portfolio that continues to grow,” said Marvin Odum, Upstream Americas Director, Shell Energy Resources Co. “Perdido presented technical challenges unlike we’ve ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The facility was built in around 2,450 meters (8,000 feet) of water, which is roughly equivalent to six Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other, Shell noted. Perdido “smashes the world water depth record for an offshore platform by more than 50%,” said the producer.

“Shell’s team used its expertise to open this new frontier and confront complex reservoir characteristics, extreme marine conditions and record water depth pressures,” said Odum. “Perdido demonstrates what companies like Shell can do when U.S. federal lands and waters are opened to responsible energy exploration and production.”

From the first lease purchase to ramp-up, the Perdido Development required an industry workforce of about 12,000 people, including employees and contractors. Shell Offshore Inc. designed, operates and owns a 35% stake in the Perdido host spar, a floating production facility. Joint owners are Chevron Corp. (37.5%), and BP plc (27.5%).

Perdido is to gather, process and export production within a 30-mile radius. Moored in Alaminos Canyon Block 857 near the Great White discovery, the hub’s vertical access spar is designed to reduce the number and size of facilities and operations required to explore the deepwater. No cost estimates were disclosed.

The development is in the Perdido Foldbelt, which is in the northwestern ultra-deepwater off the tip of Texas and 200 miles south of Freeport, TX. Several ultra-deepwater foldbelts in U.S. waters are comprised of large northeast-southwest trending compressional “box folds.” Researchers believe each of these box folds could hold 1-2 billion boe in reserves potential.

Shell began exploratory drilling operations on the Great White play in March 2002 in more than 8,000 feet of water (see Daily GPI, Oct. 4, 2002). The Great White field represents about 80% of Perdido’s total estimated production.

The Perdido Development, whose life span is estimated at around 20 years, is to produce from the Great White, Silvertip and Tobago offshore fields, “requiring perhaps as many as 35 wells over the life of the fields,” said Shell officials. Tobago sits in more than 2,900 meters (9,600 feet) of water and “surpasses the world depth record for a completed subsea well.” In addition, all Perdido subsea fields are to use an innovative subsea separation and boosting system to enable gas and oil recovery.

“This is a new frontier in many respects,” said Odum. “Perdido’s floating production facility can be expanded to serve the future potential in the area, and we can apply the technology and expertise utilized at Perdido to other similarly challenging environments in the future.”

By comparison, BP’s Thunder Horse in the GOM, which is considered the largest offshore gas and oil platform in the world, also produces 200 MMcf/d of gas, as well as 250,000 b/d of oil. Chevron’s deepwater Tahiti facility is producing about 70 MMcf/d of gas and 125,000 b/d of oil, and its Blind Faith offshore facility produces 55 MMcf/d of gas and 65,000 b/d of oil.

Also in the deepwater GOM, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s Independence Hub is able to produce up to 1 Bcf/d of gas. Its Marco Polo offshore facility produces up to 300 MMcf/d of gas and 120,000 b/d of oil. Apache Corp.’s Geauxpher development, also in the GOM deepwater, is able to produce up to 91 MMcf/d of gas.

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