Study predicts decline in installations

July 1, 2001
There will be a 29% decrease in the number of operating offshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico from 1999 to 2023, according to a recent study completed by the Louisiana State University Center for Energy Studies. The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) released the report, which uses historic data to predict the decline.

Study predicts decline in installations

There will be a 29% decrease in the number of operating offshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico from 1999 to 2023, according to a recent study completed by the Louisiana State University Center for Energy Studies. The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) released the report, which uses historic data to predict the decline.

According to information from the MMS, 5,561 platforms or structures were installed in the Gulf between 1942 and 1997, and 1,645 structures were removed. While the number of installations outnumbered removals for some time, the trend slowed in the 1990s when platforms installed in the 1960s and 1970s became uneconomic and were removed. In the upcoming decades, according to the study, removals will outnumber installations.

More US Gulf storms; eastern low dwindles

Tropical storm Allison struck the upper Texas coast early last month in what industry experts expect to be a relatively stormy season for the US mainland. While the Atlantic hurricane season stretches from June through November, peak times for tropical storms and hurricanes to form range from the third week of August through the end of September.

Chris Hebert, lead hurricane forecaster for Impact Weather of Universal Weather & Aviation, predicts a less active season than the last couple of years, but a busier-than-normal year. He expects 10-11 tropical storms to form during the hurricane season, but tempers the projection with the caveat that more storms are likely to make landfall than in recent years. There were 14 named tropical storms in the Atlantic in 2000, with only two weakened systems making landfall on American coasts.

Over the last five years, he noted, more category 3, 4, and 5 storms formed, but fewer made landfall. Because of this trend, Hebert said, the public perception is that there have been fewer major storm systems. Over the last decade, an area of low pressure off the nation's east coast sent tropical storms north, so fewer storms made it into the US Gulf where oil operations take place. "Lately, storms have been taking a more northwesterly pattern and missing the US Gulf altogether," he said. "The question is, when is that system going to begin breaking down?"

That could happen this year or later, he said, noting other indicators that 2001 may produce a busier storm season than in years past, including the warming of the Atlantic Ocean. Given this combination, Hebert said that more major tropical systems will likely enter the Gulf of Mexico this year.

"Once this east coast weather pattern that steered storms out to sea dissipates, we're going to see an increasing number of major storms entering the Gulf of Mexico in the coming years," he said. The predicted number of storms "doesn't have to be a great number to be a significant threat to the Gulf of Mexico."

Pioneer ups 2001 capital budget

Pioneer Natural Resources Co.'s board increased its 2001 capital budget by $50 million. The additional funding will hike total planned investment to $480 million, allowing the company to appraise recently announced discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico, off South Africa and Gabon, and to enhance its exploration program.

Appraisal drilling on Falcon and Turnberry in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, Boomslang in South Africa, and Olowi in Gabon accounts for about $30 million of the capital increase. The remaining $20 million increase is earmarked for the previously announced purchase of additional interest in the Devils Tower field in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, seismic acquisition in South Africa, and a well in Tunisia.

Pogo has Main Pass find

Pogo Producing Co.'s Main Pass 61 No. 5 exploratory well found 158 net ft of oil pay in the Gulf of Mexico. Analysis of the well, drilled to a total vertical depth of 7,972 ft, indicated high porosity and permeability. Operator Pogo, which has 100% of the field on Main Pass 61 and Main Pass 62, expects to drill three or four more wells in the area.

"This two-block field is beginning to look like it could develop into one of the more significant crude oil fields discovered in the shelf of the Gulf of Mexico in the last several years," said Pogo CEO Paul Van Wagenen. The company expects production from the field by the end of the year. Several similar but untested prospects have been identified in the area and will be the focus of future drilling, the company said.

Spinnaker reports discoveries

Spinnaker Exploration Co. said recent exploration operations resulted in new field discoveries. South Timbalier 274 No. 1 in 265 ft water depth established pay in three reservoirs. Spinnaker has 100% working interest. First production is expected in first quarter 2002. The High Island 202 No. 7 well found productive field pays and productive Rob-M sands. Completion operations are scheduled to begin soon. Spinnaker operates the field with a 75% working interest.

Spinnaker said two exploratory wells drilled in West Cameron 459 tested separate geologic structures on the block, and at least one more well will be drilled with the current rig mobilization. The West Cameron 459 No. 1 well found 44 ft of pay in the Pleistocene I sand target. Spinnaker has 50% working interest in this well. The West Cameron 459 No. 2 well, where Spinnaker owns 100% working interest, found 89 ft of pay. Platform and facility design is underway, and first production is anticipated in early 2002. The field is in 134 ft water depth.

Front Runner, 17 Hands update

Murphy Oil Corp. said an appraisal well on its Front Runner prospect in Green Canyon 338 confirmed pay sands encountered in the discovery well. The prospect's reserves are now estimated at 120-150 MMboe. The well, located in 3,500 ft water depth, will be sidetracked to Front Runner South to seek additional reserves. The initial well in 5,450 ft water depth is being sidetracked at the Seventeen Hands prospect in Mississippi Canyon 299 to delineate a natural gas discovery. Operator Murphy has 37.5%, Dominion Resources has 37.5%, and Spinnaker has 25%.

TGS-Nopec buys Pangaea 3D

TGS-Nopec Geophysical Co. acquired 100% ownership in 8,800 sq km of non-exclusive 3D data previously owned jointly with WesternGeco. Under the agreement with WesternGeco, TGS-Nopec exchanged its interest in four other jointly held Gulf of Mexico 3D surveys and paid an undisclosed amount of cash to acquire WesternGeco's share of eight 3D surveys within TGS-Nopec's Pangaea complex of 3D surveys on the offshore Louisiana shelf. TGS-Nopec also said it has begun a new 3D pre-stack time migration project covering the entire 14,300 sq km Pangaea area.

Durango find enhances Gunnison area

Nexen reported the successful drilling of its Durango prospect on Garden Banks 667 in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The Durango prospect, located in 3,150 ft water depth, is adjacent to the Gunnison field. The Durango exploratory well encountered about 200 ft of net natural gas pay and could contain reserves of about 120 bcf of gas. Gunnison reserves are estimated to be 150-200 million BOE. "The Gunnison facility will serve as the processing hub for this core area of the Gulf where Nexen has interests in 12 other blocks," Nexen President and CEO Charlie Fischer said. "Appraisal drilling and engineering design work is expected to be completed later this year, and fabrication work is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2001 with first production in late 2003 or early 2004." Operator Kerr-McGee has a 50% interest, Nexen has 30%, and Cal Dive International has 20%.