Shallow-water fields account for 90% of the global market, but deepwater fields are growing in importance, Will Rowley, director of analytical services at Infield Systems Ltd., told attendees at a forum in Houston.
"Deepwater is exciting, and its level of importance is moving up," Rowley said.
Ultra-deepwater (>1,500 m), considered by Infield as a subset of deepwater, will account for 19% of deepwater expenditure during 2004-2008, Rowley said. This percentage is up from 15% in the 1999-2003 period. Infield's numbers indicate 56% of the world total is in the Gulf of Mexico. "North America is the key area," Rowley said.
Latin America, particularly Brazil, accounts for 34% of the ultra-deep fields. Six percent are in Africa, and the remaining 4% is in Asia.
Because of cost, ultra-deepwater is the domain of a relatively small number of operators. "At the moment, it is a small club," Rowley said. But the number of investors in ultra-deepwater fields is growing. The number of companies with interest in these fields will increase through 2012, he said.
Interestingly, the number of ultra-deepwater field operators is also on the rise. Rowley explained that companies like Petronas are buying into ultra-deepwater fields with the intent to eventually operate ultra-deepwater fields themselves.
Participants in deepwater projects are likely to change, but the significance of deepwater and ultra-deepwater projects will continue to play a major role for the foreseeable future. "The production that can come from deepwater is tremendous," Rowley said.