Beyond the Depth for Future Supply
It is vital to accelerate deepwater oil and gas exploration in order to secure China's energy supply and to reduce energy dependence on foreign resources. BP’s unique technology and rich experience which has been deployed so effectively in the Gulf of Mexico would help China to realize the above goal.
Wayne Champagne is a senior subsea production technician. He has worked offshore with several companies for 35 years, the past ten with BP with the recent three years being spent on Atlantis - a BP-operated offshore platform in US Gulf of Mexico. "Atlantis is my second home and the people are my second family. My favorite part of being an offshore worker now is the quality of the people and the work we achieve, but also the Production Quarter (PQ) itself. BP did a great job with Atlantis."
For many people the word "Atlantis" will conjure up thoughts of the legendary Greek isle, yet there is nothing ancient or mythical about BP's Atlantis project. Following the discovery of the oil and gas field in 1998, BP’s most skilled engineering team successfully operated at a water depth of 7,074 feet (2,156 meters), a record which had been kept for a long period of time.
Designed to process up to 200,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) and 180 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmscf/d), production at Atlantis started in 2007. Its field size, water depth and reservoir structure make it among the most technologically challenging developments ever undertaken by BP. During the early exploration stage, BP's engineers encountered an extremely thick salt formation that made reservoir imaging extremely difficult. In an attempt to solve this unprecedented problem, engineers broke with convention and developed a brand new model, whereby Atlantis employed an integrated concept PQ semi-submersible platform supported by a separate, dedicated semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit. This integrated concept allows BP not only to yield valuable information about the reservoir impossible to acquire from seismic studies, but also to re-enter wells as needed and provides flexibility in choosing well locations.
On first glance it appears that offshore platforms’ topsides seem similar, when actually, every subsea oil and gas well possesses unique characteristics and challenges. “Talking about BP’s deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico, we always say: the future is now,” Champagne said. To tackle the difficulties during deepwater exploration and production, one after another, BP has to depend on constant innovation from both technology and management.
BP began deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations in the mid 1980s and is currently the largest producer in the Gulf of Mexico. BP is also the leading explorer in the Gulf region, with BP's findings representing over 30 percent of all the large fields discovered in the last decade. Today, BP explores and produces oil and gas from over twenty fields, including BP operated facilities at Pompano (1994), Marlin (2000), Horn Mountain (2002), Na Kika (2003), Holstein (2004), Mad Dog (2005), Atlantis (2007) and Thunder Horse (2008), with Mad Dog, Atlantis and Thunder Horse being among the giant oil and gas fields.
Thunder Horse is currently the largest deepwater producing field in the BP portfolio with capacity of 250,000 bopd oil and 200 mmscf/d gas. It also sets the industry record of high temperature and high pressure in a drilling environment (1,200 mbar, 135 degree centigrade) and is world biggest semi-submersible production drilling quarter weighing almost 45,000 tons. Mad Dog, one of the top ten largest discoveries to-date in the Gulf of Mexico, deploys the world's largest single-piece truss spar, and at 8,000-tons, the topsides deck is the largest single-hook load lift in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's constant motivation to innovate stems from its efforts in pursuit of high safety and environmental standards. Holstein is the first of BP's new-generation deepwater Gulf of Mexico projects, achieving BP's brand value of being environmentally sensitive while possessing the capacity to process more than 110,000 bopd oil and 150 mmscf/d gas. Every time BP builds a new offshore platform, the company strives to minimize its "footprints" and reduce environmental impacts to their lowest.
In 2007, BP invested US$80 million to build a 1,280 - kilometer fiber optic loop cable, linking its deepwater projects in the Gulf and the Advanced Collaboration Environment Center (ACE Center) in Houston. Thus, for the first time, every offshore production unit is able to keep uninterrupted links with BP's deepwater headquarter in the US.
By sharing real-time monitoring data, simplifying communication and the collaboration process, while providing seamless connection with BP's global resource pool, the entire ACE management mechanism reduces operation costs and enhances decision-making efficiency, reminiscent of the Chinese saying - "careful planning wins a war thousand miles away".
Sustaining investment in deepwater exploration and production maintains BP's position as the leading company in the industry. In 2009, BP made a giant oil discovery at its Tiber Prospect in the deepwater US Gulf of Mexico. The well, at a water depth 4,132 feet (1,259 meters) was drilled to a total depth of approximately 35,055 feet (10,685 meters) making it one of the deepest wells ever drilled by the oil and gas industry. The depth is taller than Mount Everest. "The material discoveries together with our industry leading acreage position support the continuing growth of our deepwater Gulf of Mexico business into the second half of the next decade."
In fact, deepwater has become one of BP group’s three key sources of growth. In 2009, BP’s reserve replacement ratio for the year was 129 percent and production growth was 4 percent. This remarkable performance can be attributed to the stable progress of upstream such as Tiber’s discovery and Thunder Horse’s first-year startup. Mentioned in the 2010 strategic update, deepwater exploration and production is a crucial component of the BP Group’s upstream mid-term growth. Moreover, according to the US National Energy Policy Development Group’s report, offshore oil, especially from the Gulf of Mexico, will account for increasingly greater portion of US domestic oil production with anticipation at 40 percent in 2010, compared with 27 percent in 2001.
World energy demand will rise 45 percent by 2030, according to BP's estimates. The growth is equal to twice the US's current energy consumption. China faces severe challenges on energy supply to fuel its fast growing economy. Although China has rich deepwater resources, development remains at early stage. It is vital to accelerate deepwater oil and gas exploration in order to secure China's energy supply and to reduce energy dependence on foreign imports. BP's unique technology and rich experience utilized so effectively in the Gulf of Mexico would help China to achieve the above goal. BP would like to share its advanced technology and vast experience of deepwater exploration, as part of its efforts to enhance global energy security.
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