A total of 49 separate fields in the US Gulf of Mexico in water depths beyond 1,000 ft have been disclosed by operators as commercial and capable of being developed. Of the 49 fields, seven have already been developed and some type of activity is underway on another 10 fields.
A total of 32 fields remain to be developed in some fashion. Within this group of 32, some planning is underway, but nothing has been announced. Of the 32, 12 prospects have not been named.
Subsea developments, with and without surface floating support facilities, are planned for a large number of prospects. These include fields with oil reserve levels below 100 million bbl or gas fields. Gas prospects are easier and less expensive to develop subsea with tie-backs to existing shelf facilities, if the hydrates (frozen water-gas mixture) problems in flowlines can be solved.
Seventeen of the 32 developable prospects are in water depths beyond 3,000 ft. A barrier to development beyond 3,000 ft depths is the cost and size of operating a tension leg platform, which is the preferred development solution.
Much of the research being conducted by the Deepstar multi-operator research consortium is on subsea solutions for prospects in water depths beyond 3,000 ft.
Shell, including Shell Offshore, is the operator on 19 of the 49 deepwater prospects. Exxon is the operator on eight prospects, although it has significant leaseholding rights on other deepwater prospects.
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