The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

'Giant' Oil Discovery in the Gulf

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted September 2, 2009

BP has announced a so-called "giant" oil discovery in the ultra-deep waters of the Gulf Mexico that might contain more than 3 billion barrels of oil. The discovery was made at the Tiber Prospect, which is about 250 miles southeast of Houston. As reported by Bloomberg, the well is the world's deepest exploratory well, drilled down to 35,055 feet, a distance that's greater than the height of Mount Everest.

BP spokesman Robert Wine was quoted as saying, "This is a whole new geological play we've got here."

The well was drilled in the Lower Tertiary, also called the Paleogene, region of the Gulf, which is believed to be 24- to 65-million years old. ExxonMobil and Chevron also are drilling wells in the formation.

Just a few years ago, no one would have believed it was possible for a drill bit to grind its way to such depths. But today, with the industry's advanced technology, it is possible to access formations that once were considered unreachable.

Just think about the challenges inherent in finding oil at that depth. The Tiber well was drilled in 4,130 feet of water to a total depth of about 7 miles. Using space-age technology, the geo scientists and engineers were able to locate the oil deposit below the sea and miles of rock; position a drill-ship on the surface of the Gulf and hold it there despite waves, wind and currents; lower the drill string to precisely the correct location and chew through thousands of feet of rock despite the enormous pressure and heat; and find a huge oil reserve. It's truly amazing.

BP says the new discovery will boost its output in the Gulf of Mexico by 50 percent to 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent per after 2020. ConocoPhillips and Petrobras also have working interests in the Tiber discovery.