Posts Tagged ‘drilling’

Of the 1.7 billion acres of Federal land on the US Outer Continental Shelf, only about 73 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico and 1 million acres in the Cook Inlet may be offered for oil and gas leasing. Official or de facto exclusions prohibit leasing in the entire US Atlantic, the entire US Pacific, all Alaska areas except the Cook Inlet, and most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. No other coastal nation has restricted access to oil and gas resources to this extent.

As demonstrated in recent sales, many of the tracts being offered have little or no production potential. Only 308 tracts (1.7 million acres) received bids in GoM Sale 257. 94 of the high bids were for sequestration purposes and were arguably invalid. Sale 258 in the Cook Inlet only received a single bid.

The number of active leases, currently 2153, has been at a historically low level for the past 2 years. Only 0.7% of our OCS is leased and thus open to exploration. 26% (552) of these leases are already producing, leaving a historically low number of nonproducing leases.

Oil is where you find it, not where you wish it was or want it to be. Denying access to all but a small portion of the OCS limits exploration strategies and prevents publicly owned resources from supporting our economy in the manner intended by the OCS Lands Act.

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Per our post on the first Gulf of Mexico OCS production, here is what has happened since:

  • 54,948 wells drilled
  • 7159 platforms installed; 1743 remain in place
  • 40,000 miles of pipeline installed (per GAO)
  • Deepest water depth well: 10141 feet, Murphy (2008)
  • Deepest water depth platform: 9560 feet, Stones (Turritella) FPSO, Shell
  • Total oil production: 1947-2022 YTD = 23.6 billion bbls
  • Total gas production: 1947-2022 YD = 190.1 trillion cubic feet
  • Max. annual oil production: 693 million bbls (2019)
  • Max. annual gas production: 5.15 trillion cu ft (1997)
  • 131 lease sales
  • 28,482 tracts leased

Except for the GAO pipeline estimate, all numbers are from BSEE and BOEM online data centers.

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  • Chart 1: Gulf of Mexico rig count remains low
  • Chart 2: Exploratory drilling continues to decline and may be insufficient to replace reserves
  • Chart 3: Well starts and number of operators drilling remain at historic low levels
  • Chart 4: (1) One company (Shell) accounted for 39% of the 2021 YTD deepwater well starts in the GoM. (2) Five companies (Shell, Oxy/Anadarko, Chevron, Murphy, and BP) accounted for 80% of the deepwater well starts.

More certainty regarding lease sales would help. Prospective participants need assurances that they will have opportunities to apply findings and test exploration and development strategies. Will Lease Sale 257 be held on schedule next week?

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Phil Rae piece in Fuel Fix

  1. The well clearly had losses through the shoe during the initial displacement of the heavy spacer with seawater, immediately prior to the negative test.
  2. Allowing for, and accepting, losses of ~80 bbls during spacer displacement, explains ALL pressure and flow anomalies without the need to create or invoke undocumented and unsubstantiated valve closures or manipulations that contradict witness testimony of events. It also eliminates the need to adopt unrealistically-low pump efficiencies for the rig pumps, hypothetical washed-out tubing and ridiculously high viscosities for the drilling mud, in an effort to fit questionable computer models.
  3. Despite extensive examination by investigators and the publication of several reports, the fact that the well experienced losses, making it even more severely underbalanced than was planned, has been given little credence or has received little or no attention, despite several clear indications that this was the case. While this statement regarding losses may be self-evident, its significance on the outcome at Macondo merits closer examination since it explains many previous, apparently-contradictory aspects of the disaster.
  4. Under-displacement of heavyweight spacer, as a result of losses during displacement, caused U-tubing and partial evacuation of the kill line, the lower end of which was later refilled with heavyweight spacer, driven by pressure and flow from the formation. The vacuum, initially, and subsequent invasion of heavy fluid rendered the kill line useless for monitoring the well since the line was effectively blind to pressure changes in the well.
  5. While initial flow into the well was through the shoe, pressure above the casing hanger seal during the negative test was reduced to levels that could have allowed the casing to lift, compromising the seal and possibly also allowing flow from the external annulus.
  6. The well encountered further losses during the second displacement (to displace the riser), after completion of the negative test. These losses, which were perhaps as much as 200 bbls, effectively replaced heavy mud with sea water in the casing below the drill pipe. This further underbalanced the well to the point that it was being kept under control only by pumping friction pressure. As the pump rate was reduced prior to shut down for the sheen test, effectively reducing system backpressure, the now severely underbalanced well began to flow.

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from Platts Oilgram News:

Representatives Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced the so-called No Free Inspections for Oil Companies Act (H.R. 2566) July 15, in reaction to House Republicans’ proposal for funding the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. About $35 million short of the Obama administration’s request, the GOP’s $154 million budget rejected new and more expensive fees on offshore operators. The administration wanted to ratchet up industry fees to $65 million a year, from $10 million, to pay for a tougher inspections regime.

The annual inspection fees debate, a budget season ritual for 20+ years, has picked up intensity and financial significance in the post-Macondo spotlight. However, discussions about regulatory philosophy and the fundamental program decisions that dictate inspection strategy are still absent. Safety and pollution prevention are the goals, not inspections. While inspections are an essential part of any safety regime, they are just one component of a comprehensive regulatory program. More inspections would not have prevented Macondo. Better standards, training, technology, and attention to prior incidents (most notably Montara) may have.

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You be the judge.

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This information is unconfirmed but the source is highly reputable:

We just received word this morning that the Transocean Marianas rig  has developed a large crack in one of the pontoons on the #5/#6 anchor chain locker while they were picking up anchors, and is currently taking on water and listing.  The bilge pumps are keeping up (barely), but there’s certainly concern that it might sink on location. So far, 68 people have been evacuated from location.

According to RigZone, the Marianas was working offshore Nigeria. [Per one of our readers, (see comment below) Petrodata shows the rig operating offshore Ghana.]

More:  The Marianas, spudded the Macondo in October, 2009, but was damaged by Hurricane Ida and towed to shore.  The Deepwater Horizon was the rig that replaced the Marianas.

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Animation of Transocean’s BOP analysis

Transocean’s BOP Defense:

Forensic evidence from independent post-incident testing by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and evaluation by the Transocean investigation team confirm that the Deepwater Horizon BOP was properly maintained and did operate as designed. However, it was overcome by conditions created by the extreme dynamic flow, the force of which pushed the drill pipe upward, washed or eroded the drill pipe and other rubber and metal elements, and forced the drill pipe to bow within the BOP. This prevented the BOP from completely shearing the drill pipe and sealing the well.

In other words, Transocean contends that properly maintained BOPE was not up to the task of shutting-in and securing a high-rate well. If true, this finding has significant implications for the offshore industry.  I’m looking forward to reading the government’s findings on the BOP failure when the Joint Investigation Team report is issued next month.


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BP settled Macondo litigation with Weatherford, manufacturer of the float equipment equipment used in the Macondo well. The failure of this equipment was a key contributing factor in the Macondo blowout. Under the agreement, Weatherford will pay BP $75 million.  This money will be applied to the $20 billion Macondo trust fund.

Weatherford is the first of BP’s contractors to formally agree with BP that the entire industry can and should learn from the Deepwater Horizon incident. Accordingly, Weatherford has committed to working with BP to take actions to improve processes and procedures, managerial systems, and safety and best practices in offshore drilling operations. BP and Weatherford will encourage other companies in the drilling industry to join them in this improvement and reform effort.


  1. $75 million seems like a rather modest payment by Weatherford given the magnitude of Macondo damage costs. BP will “indemnify Weatherford for compensatory claims resulting from the accident.”  Presumably, Weatherford’s sales agreements provide good legal protection.
  2. One of the root causes of the Montara blowout was also a float collar failure. That float collar was also supplied by Weatherford.  I’m surprised that this common cause and supplier have received almost no attention. Of course, no one has paid much attention to Montara, either before or after Macondo. Had more attention been paid to the Montara inquiry, Macondo might have been avoided.  (Note that most of the post-Macondo commentary still implies that deep water is the threat even though Montara was in 80 m of water and the root causes of Macondo were not water depth related).
  3. When do we learn more about the “improvement and reform effort” described in the quote above?

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