Gulf of Mexico operators are rolling out new floating production platforms that they hope will not only anchor lucrative projects, but also accelerate the cycle times to first production. Renewed interest in offshore is certainly linked to the precipitous decline in project break-even costs over the last few years, led by lower unit costs. It is also being driven by the industry’s ability to simplify and standardize project designs. This experience is encouraging operators to sanction new and larger fields. The International Energy Agency carried out a study earlier this year on upcoming offshore project approvals and found that, in 2019 and 2020, the average size of the resource sanctioned will increase by about 20% but without a corresponding increase in cycle time.
The platform of choice for many of the new deepwater hub projects in the GoM is a semisubmersible. It has an average lead time from sanction to first production of 38.4 months, which is competitive with other floating hulls.
The latest project sanctions in the GoM that call for a semisubmersible production platform – Vito and King’s Quay – are on schedule to deliver the floaters within the industry average for cycle time. In both cases, the project teams have adopted a “lean and efficient” platform design philosophy to develop the initial fields. These two projects, as well as others, are also taking advantage of industry-standard designs to reduce cost and cycle time.