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BP Approves Latest Expansion at Giant Gulf of Mexico Thunder Horse Field

Published in Oil Industry News on Wednesday, 8 May 2019


Graphic for News Item: BP Approves Latest Expansion at Giant Gulf of Mexico Thunder Horse Field

BP has given the green light to its Thunder Horse South Expansion Phase 2 project in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, further boosting output at one of the region's largest fields by 50,000 b/d oil equivalent gross after two recent earlier expansions.

The expansion project, sited two miles south of the existing Thunder Horse platform, will add two new subsea production units in the near term, and eventually eight wells to be drilled overall, BP said in a statement Monday.The company declined to disclose the cost of the project, which it characterized as "major."

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First oil is expected in 2021. The Thunder Horse platform can produce 250,000 b/d of crude oil and 200,000 Mcf/d of natural gas.

This latest project follows at least two other major expansions in recent years at Thunder Horse, discovered in 1999. An earlier South Expansion project in early 2017 also raised production at the field by an additional 50,000 boe/d. And, last October, the Thunder Horse Northwest Expansion project came online and is anticipated to boost production an estimated 30,000 boe/d.

BP's latest announcement adds to a growing list of new activities in the US Gulf that include exploration, development and field expansions.

"Over the past few years, deepwater has gotten into shape, offering faster return on investment, earlier cash flow and shorter cycle times," William Turner, Gulf of Mexico analyst for Wood Mackenzie, said in a presentation to the Offshore Technology Conference.

"We're seeing some indication that the investment pendulum is starting to swing back to deepwater," Turner said. "It's long and slow but we're headed that way."

Starlee Skyes, BP's regional president for the Gulf of Mexico and Canada, said her company's latest expansion at Thunder Horse will "[unlock] significant value" and grow an already high-margin business.

"It also highlights our continued growth and momentum in a region that will remain a key part of BP's global portfolio for years to come," Sykes added.

BP's expansions also follow a public show of renewed enthusiasm for upstream US Gulf activity. In January, the company said it was "back with a vengeance" in the Gulf after having paused its active program there after the Macondo oil spill in the region in 2010.

In January 2019, BP, which produces more than 300,000 boe/d from the US Gulf and expects to hit 400,000 boe/d by the mid-2020s, said recent breakthroughs in advanced seismic imaging had identified an additional 1 billion barrels of oil in place at Thunder Horse, which suggested an added potential for further development in the future.

The attention BP has paid to technology in its US Gulf operation has also resulted in more and better quality finds. The company said in January that 70% of its offshore wells are now top quartile, versus 25% in 2013, and well completion costs are down 70%.

As a result, a business which just two years ago was "flat to down" is now a growth engine, it said.

Aside from BP, most operators that stayed in the Gulf through the industry downturn of 2015-17 have recently said they are eager to return to exploration and appraisal work in the region.

Hess, for instance, outlined in late December applauded the region's opportunities and outlined plans for its first US Gulf exploration well in years, while Murphy Oil is actively exploring and developing a former Anadarko Petroleum discovery, Samurai.

Moreover, consolidation has taken place in the Gulf and more is expected. Last year, small Gulf operator Talos Energy bought veteran Gulf player Stone Energy, while Kosmos Energy entered the US offshore arena by purchasing Deep Gulf Energy.

With the international production base declining, operators are stepping up exploration offshore in Mexico and Central America as well as sub-Saharan Africa, Western Egypt, and the Norwegian North Sea, Evercore ISI analyst James West said.

"There is a sizable pipeline of [final investment decisions] moving to sanction," West said.

Source: www.spglobal.com/

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