Thursday, May 9, 2013

Shell moves forward with ultra-deepwater Stones project in Gulf of Mexico; deepest production facility in world

Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell) made a final investment decision in the Stones ultra-deepwater project, a Gulf of Mexico oil and gas development expected to host the deepest production facility in the world. This decision sets in motion the construction and fabrication of a floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel and subsea infrastructure.

The Stones field is located in 9,500 feet (2,896 meters) of water, approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana, and was discovered in 2005. The project encompasses eight US Federal Outer Continental Shelf lease blocks in the Gulf of Mexico's Lower Tertiary geologic trend. Shell has been one of the pioneers in the Lower Tertiary, establishing first production in the play from its Perdido Development. 
Location of Stones. Click to enlarge

The Stones development will start with two subsea production wells tied back to the FPSO vessel, followed later by six additional production wells. This first phase of development is expected to have annual peak production of 50,000 boe/d from more than 250 million boe of recoverable resources. The Stones field has significant upside potential and is estimated to contain more than 2 billion boe of oil in place, according to Shell.
This important investment demonstrates our ongoing commitment to usher in the next generation of deepwater developments, which will deliver more production growth in the Americas.
-John Hollowell, Executive Vice President for Deepwater, Shell Upstream Americas
An FPSO design was selected to develop and produce this ultra-deepwater discovery while addressing the relative lack of infrastructure, seabed complexity, and unique reservoir properties. With an FPSO, tankers will transport oil from the Stones FPSO to US refineries, and gas will be transported by pipeline. Features of the design include:
  • A turret with a disconnectable buoy will allow the FPSO vessel to weathervane in normal conditions and to disconnect from the well system and sail to safe areas in the event of adverse weather conditions.
  • A lazy wave riser configuration will be used, consisting of a steel catenary riser with buoyancy added with an arch bend to decouple the FPSO dynamic motions and subsequently increase riser performance.
  • The ultra-deepwater mooring system holding the FPSO on station uses a combination of polyester rope and chain.
  • Multiphase seafloor pumping is planned for use in a later phase to pump oil and gas from the seabed to the FPSO, increasing recoverable volumes and production rates.
The launch of the Stones development is a key milestone for Shell as it continues to grow deepwater exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico, having made progress recently on the Mars-B development project with the arrival of the Olympus tension leg platform. Shell is also in the concept selection phase for the Appomattox and Vito discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell holds 100% interest and will operate the Stones development.


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