Posts Tagged ‘bp’

There are a number of recent articles related to the Guyana Supreme Court ruling on Exxon’s financial assurance obligations. An Oil Now piece (quoted below) is the most informative. It seems that the Supreme Court decision is based on a provision of Exxon’s EPA permit and that EPA is siding with Exxon in this dispute.

The Guyana government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are set to appeal a recent Guyana Supreme Court ruling that determined that the EPA and ExxonMobil affiliate, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), breached the terms of the Liza 1 environmental permit. The permit was revised and granted to EEPGL last year for operations in the Stabroek Block, offshore Guyana.

Justice Sandil Kissoon granted several declarations, including that the EPA failed to enforce compliance by EEPGL of its Financial Assurance obligations to provide an unlimited Parent Company Guarantee Agreement and/or Affiliate Company Guarantee Agreement to indemnify and keep indemnified the EPA and the Government of Guyana against all environmental obligations of the Permit Holder (EEPGL) and Co-Venturers (Hess and CNOOC) within the Stabroek Block.

While acknowledging the court’s ruling, the Government of Guyana, as a major stakeholder, maintained in a statement that the Environmental Permit imposes no obligation on the Permit Holder to provide an unlimited Parent Company Guarantee Agreement and/or Affiliate Company Guarantee Agreement. The government believes that Justice Kissoon erred in his findings and that the ruling could have significant economic and other impacts on the public interest and national development.


Unlimited liability is a rather daunting and open-ended obligation that would trouble permittees in any industry.

In the US, the liability for oil spill cleanup costs is unlimited for offshore facilities, but there is a liability cap for the resulting damages. That cap is currently $167.8 million after a recent inflation adjustment. BP, of course, paid far more than that for damages associated with the Macondo blowout. BP’s costs, which amounted to an astounding $61.6 billion, were both voluntary and compulsory as a result of agreements and settlements. Keep in mind that the damage liability limit was only $75 million at the time. One can imagine what would have happened if a company with less financial strength or more inclination to fight had been responsible for the spill.

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Based on drilling contractor rig activity reports, the table below lists 19 deepwater MODUs under or soon to begin contracts in the GoM. (Further details are pasted at the end of this post.) Per the Valeris report, platform rigs are operating on bp’s Thunder Horse and Mad Dog platforms. Per the BSEE borehole file, Arena and Cantium continue to drill development wells on the GoM shelf.

Rig NameOperator
Deepwater TitanChevron
Deepwater AtlasBeacon
Deepwater PoseidonShell
Deepwater PontusShell
Deepwater ProteusShell
Deepwater Conquerornot disclosed
Deepwater ThalassaShell
Deepwater AsgardMurphy
Deepwater InvictusWoodside
Globetrotter IShell
Globetrotter IIShell
Faye KozackQuarterNorth
Stanley LafosseMurphy
Valaris DS-18Chevron
Valaris DS-16Oxy
Ocean BlackHornetbp
Ocean Black Lionbp

Excerpts from rig activity reports:

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With the announcement of first oil at Argos, 3 of the 5 next generation deepwater platforms (simpler, safer, and greener) are now producing oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. The other 2 platforms are expected to begin production in 2024.

Prior to the installation of these platforms, the last deepwater platform addition was Shell’s Appomattox in 2018. That gap in deepwater platform installations was the longest since Bullwinkle was installed in 1988.

The 5 new structures will increase the deepwater platform count by 9% from 56 to 61, and in the next few years should account for approximately 1/4 of GoM oil production.

King’s QuayMurphy3725April 2022100,000
VitoShell4000Feb 2023100,000
Argosbp4500April 2023140,000
AnchorChevron50002024 (est.)80,000
WhaleShell86002024 (est.)100,000

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This picture was posted by MaritmePhoto. The”Blue Marlin” heavy lift vessel is arriving in Texas (2005) with the massive semisubmersible production platform “Thunder Horse” on board.

Above (from BOE archives): Pre-commissioning inspection of Thunder Horse

Thunder Horse has a most interesting history. The project was initially named Crazy Horse, but the name was changed out of respect for concerns raised by the Lakota nation. The massive structure is 136 m in length and 113 m in width, and is located in 6300′ of water in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico.

Many of you no doubt remember the near disaster during Hurricane Dennis (2005) when the platform was being commissioned. In light of the extensive pre-production hype for the “world’s largest production platform,” this was a costly and embarrassing incident for BP and the OCS program.

Per the findings of the MMS investigation team led by my former colleague David Dykes:

Findings indicate that failures associated with the hydraulic control system and its isolation on evacuation led to the partial opening of multiple hydraulically actuated valves in the ballast and bilge systems of the vessel. This allowed ballast water migration to take place, causing the initial listing (to approximately 16 degrees) of the vessel shortly after the hydraulic system was isolated.

The findings also indicate that ballast water migrated into manned spaces in the lower hull, via faulty and improperly installed check valves in the integrated ballast/bilge piping system. As the degree of list increased beyond the 16 degree mark, downflooding of seawater occurred, initially through overboard discharge lines and/or vents, and possibly later through the deck box as it entered the water. Since the PDQ was already listing at a 16 degree angle prior to the passage of Hurricane Dennis, wave action associated with the passage of the hurricane may also have contributed to the downflooding of seawater.

Although not an initiating event, failed Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs) and two unintended openings in the bulkheads allowed water transfer between watertight compartments, which led to extensive flooding and water damage in the lower hull.

Fortunately, there were no injuries. Repairs were made and production was finally initiated in June 2008.

After recent subsea tieback expansions, Thunder Horse is reported to be producing 200,000+ boe/d. OPEC’s Monthly Market Report for April 2023 cites the Thunder Horse expansion as a key driver in the January 2023 GoM production increase (see excerpt below).

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  • Deepwater (>1000′) activity continues to dominate, accounting for 61% of the well starts.
  • Not a single company drilled both shelf and deepwater wells.
  • While shelf facilities currently account for only about 7% of GoM oil production, 1122 of the 1179 remaining platforms are on the shelf and they account for 24% of GoM gas production, most of which is environmentally favorable nonassociated gas.
  • Two companies, Arena and Cantium, accounted for 75% of the shelf well starts. Excluding the CCS bids, Arena and Cantium were the most active shelf bidders in Sale 279. Arena bid alone on 7 blocks. Cantium was the high bidder on 5 blocks. (Focus Exploration was high bidder on 4 shelf blocks and was “outbid” by Exxon for High Island 177.)
  • One company, Shell, accounted for 39% of the deepwater well starts
  • One of BP’s exploratory wells (drilled subsequent to Sale 257) was in Green Canyon 821, immediately south of GC 777, the block that BP/Talos bid $1.8 million for in Sale 257. That bid was rejected by BOEM. In sale 259, BP was the sole bidder for GC 777, and their bid was only $583,000, less than 1/3 of their Sale 257 bid. Perhaps the GC 821 exploratory well reduced the value of GC 777? Will this lower bid now be accepted?
DW explDW devshelf explshelf dev
Gulf of Mexico well starts during 2022 and the first quarter of 2023

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companyno. of Sale 259 high bids
(Sale 257 in parentheses)
total Sale 259 high bids
($ millions)
Chevron75 (34)108
BP37 (46)46.7
Shell21 (20)20.1
Equinor16 (1)18.3
Beacon13 (4)9.0
Anadarko (Oxy)13 (30)8.6
Red Willow13 (5)3.8
Hess12 (2)8.3
Woodside12 (8)6.3
Houston Energy8 (5)11.6
from BOEM data

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  • 313 blocks receiving bids
  • 353 bids
  • 32 companies submitting bids
  • High bids totaled $263.8 million

Exxon doubled down on their strategic CCS bidding; their only bids (69 in total) again appeared to be solely for carbon sequestration purposes. As previously noted, acquiring tracts for CCS purposes is not authorized in an oil and gas sale. Arguably, these bids should be rejected.

The other super-majors, BP, Chevron, and Shell, were active participants as were many independents.

It was good to see BOEM Director Liz Klein announcing bids. This shows respect for the OCS oil and gas program.

It was also good to hear that Red Willow, a native American corporation, was again an active participant.

More to follow.

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“I am of a firm view that the world will need oil and gas for a long time to come,” (Shell Chief Executive) Sawan, who started the job on Jan. 1, told Times Radio in the U.K. on Friday. “As such, cutting oil and gas production is not healthy.

Back in 2021, Shell predicted that its own oil production would decline every year and drop by as much as 18% by 2030. BP had a similar outlook, but CEO Bernard Looney rolled back its climate targets this year and said it will increase investment in exploration and production.

BP and Shell have trailed their U.S. peers in price to earnings ratios. Analysts have said investors interested in exposure to oil and gas have shunned them for putting more money into renewables, while investors focusing on environmental concerns haven’t rewarded them. That’s kept European energy firms trading at a discount.


It will never happen, but a separate company composed of BP and/or Shell upstream US assets would be very attractive to investors.

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BOEM published their Sale 257 Decision Matrix on Friday (2/24/2023), and my previous speculation regarding the rejected Sale 257 high bid has proven to be partially incorrect. The rejected high bid was submitted by BP and Talos and was for Green Canyon Block 777. BOEM’s analytics assigned a Mean of the Range-of-Value (MROV) of $4.4 million to that tract, which tied for the highest MROV for any tract receiving a bid. The BP/Talos bid was $1.8 million or just 40% of BOEM’s MROV. BOEM’s tract evaluation is interesting given that the other bid on this wildcat tract (by Chevron, $1.185 million) was considerably lower than the rejected BP/Talos bid.

The Sale 257 bid that I thought might have been rejected was for lease G37261. This lease was never issued per the lease inquiry data base and the final bid recap. BHP’s bid of $3.6 million for that tract (Green Canyon Block 79) was more than 5 times BOEM’s MROV of $576,000, and was accepted per the decision matrix. Why was the lease never issued?

Both Green Canyon 79 and 777 should again be for sale in legislatively mandated Sale 259, which will be held in just a few weeks on March 29, 2023, just 2 days prior to the deadline. It will be interesting to see what the bidding on those tracts looks like.

Meanwhile, Exxon and BOEM are still mum about the 94 Sale 257 oil and gas leases that Exxon acquired for carbon sequestration purposes. Note the large patches of blue just offshore Texas on the map above. These leases were all valued by BOEM at only $144,000 each, which is equivalent to the minimum bid of $25/acre. This valuation reflects the absence of perceived value for oil and gas production purposes. Exxon bid $158,400 for each tract, $27.50/acre or 10% higher than the minimum bid. Given that (1) the Notice of Sale only provided for lease acquisition for oil and gas exploration and production purposes, and (2) it was common knowledge that these tracts were acquired for carbon sequestration, should these bids have been rejected?

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