The deepwater Gulf of Mexico epitomizes BP’s strategy of using advanced technology — including one of the world’s largest supercomputers for commercial research — to produce oil more safely, more efficiently and more sustainably.
In 2017, for example, the company used seismic processing and its Houston supercomputer to identify an additional 1 billion barrels of oil in place around its Gulf of Mexico production hubs. In effect, the technology allowed BP to locate new oil fields within existing fields.
Historically, one of the biggest seismic challenges in the Gulf of Mexico was finding a way to see beneath thick, horizontal salt sheets. To meet that challenge, BP scientists developed an innovative seismic source technology called Wolfspar, which lets them see deeper below the salt layers than anyone ever has. This will give the company a much better sense of where to drill its offshore wells.
BP currently is piloting Wolfspar at its Mad Dog field, and eventually it plans to deploy the technology around the world.
As part of another Gulf of Mexico pilot project, the company has used a robotic fleet of drones and crawlers to inspect its Thunder Horse platform. The robot technology allows BP to conduct more thorough inspections of its facilities — transmitted through a live video feed — while creating a safer work environment. (The drones and crawlers perform inspections that otherwise would be conducted by people harnessed to ropes.)
Elsewhere in the gulf, BP has partnered with GE to deploy a digital technology known as Plant Operations Advisor, which provides real-time surveillance tools to detect potential facility issues. The company uses this technology at all four of its gulf platforms — Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika — to help engineers spot abnormalities.
During a successful pilot project at BP’s Atlantis platform, Plant Operations Advisor monitored more than 1,200 mission-critical pieces of equipment and analyzed more than 155 million data points each day.
BP first began exploring the deepwater Gulf of Mexico more than 30 years ago, and it has been the region’s largest energy investor since 2005. Between 2014 and 2017, its average daily production in the deepwater gulf increased from 252,000 barrels of oil equivalent to 304,000.
Beyond its four operated platforms, BP holds interests in four other Gulf of Mexico hubs that other companies operate: Mars, Olympus, Ursa and Great White.
In 2017, BP launched a new gulf project called Mad Dog 2. Scheduled for startup in 2021, this project will produce up to 140,000 barrels of crude oil per day from as many as 14 production wells.
“Mad Dog 2 is a great example of how we’re becoming more competitive,” says Starlee Sykes, regional president of BP’s Gulf of Mexico business. “The estimated cost of that project started at $20 billion. Now it’s under $9 billion. Some of the reduction can be attributed to market deflation, but most of it came from finding simpler, more efficient ways of working. That’s what we’re trying to do across the region.”
To support its Gulf of Mexico business, BP maintains a logistics base in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, along with a heliport in Houma. In any given month, about 2,700 people pass through the Houma heliport on their way to BP facilities.
Once well operations begin, offshore teams receive 24/7 support — including constant communication and real-time data analysis — from the company’s Houston-based Global Monitoring Center.