By Simon Bowers
11 September 2016
(The Guardian) – Royal Dutch Shell has started production at the world’s deepest underwater oil and gas field, 1.8 miles beneath the sea surface in the Gulf of Mexico.
The first oil pumped from the Stones field, 200 miles south of New Orleans, comes after billions of dollars of investment from Shell over the last three years.
The achievement will anger many climate change campaigners, but will boost annual pay for Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, under the group’s controversial performance bonus arrangements.
The field is in much deeper water than the Macondo prospect, where six years ago BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, killing 11 workers and causing environmental disaster. [more]
6 September 2016 (Shell) – Shell announces today that production has started from the Stones development in the Gulf of Mexico. Stones is expected to produce around 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) when fully ramped up at the end of 2017.
The host facility for the world’s deepest offshore oil and gas project is a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel. It is the thirteenth FPSO in Shell’s global deep-water portfolio and produces through subsea infrastructure beneath 9,500 feet (2,900 meters) of water. Stones underscores Shell’s long-standing leadership in using FPSOs to safely and responsibly unlock energy resources from deep-water assets around the world.
“Stones is the latest example of our leadership, capability, and knowledge which are key to profitably developing our global deep-water resources,” said Andy Brown, Upstream Director, Royal Dutch Shell. “Our growing expertise in using such technologies in innovative ways will help us unlock more deep-water resources around the world.”
Stones, which is 100% owned and operated by Shell, is the company’s second producing field from the Lower Tertiary geologic frontier in the Gulf of Mexico, following the start-up of Perdido in 2010.
The project demonstrates Shell’s commitment to realizing significant cost savings through innovation. It features a more cost-effective well design, which requires fewer materials and lowers installation costs; this is expected to deliver up to $1 billion reduction in well costs once all the producers are completed.
The FPSO is also specially designed to operate safely during storms. In the event of a severe storm or hurricane, it can disconnect and sail away from the field. Once the weather event has passed, the vessel would return and safely resume production.
Shell’s global deep water business is a growth priority for the company and currently produces 600,000 boe/d. Deep-water production is expected to increase to more than 900,000 boe/d by the early 2020s from already discovered, established reservoirs. Three other Shell-operated projects are currently under construction or undergoing pre-production commissioning: Coulomb Phase 2 and Appomattox in the Gulf of Mexico and Malikai in Malaysia.
Stones, employs an innovative lazy wave riser configuration, consisting of a steel catenary riser with buoyancy added with an arch bend to decouple the FPSO’s dynamic motions and subsequently increase riser performance.
An ultra-deep-water mooring system maintains the FPSO’s location over the Stones field.
3D printing was used during the design phase to develop prototypes of the detachable system for the project to ensure safety and prevent schedule delays.
The development will start with two subsea production wells tied back to the FPSO vessel, followed later by six additional production wells. Multi-phase seafloor pumping is planned for a later phase to pump oil and gas from the seabed to the vessel, increasing recoverable volumes and production rates.