The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Ultra-Deep Drilling Scores in the Gulf

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 12, 2010

Just 10 miles off the coast of Louisiana, a New Orleans company has made one of the largest Gulf of Mexico energy discoveries in decades. McMoRan Exploration Co. reports that its ultra-deep well in its Davy Jones prospect was drilled in shallow water--only 20 feet deep--down to more than 28,000 feet beneath the ocean floor where the company found huge amounts of natural gas in a 135-feet thick sand formation.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the size of the discovery ranges from 2 trillion to 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And it's believed the discovery will encourage more exploration in shallow waters close to shore where drilling has been occurring for nearly 100 years.

President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Don Briggs told The Times-Picayune that there's an incorrect perception that "all the low-hanging fruit has been picked" in the Gulf's shallow waters. However due to new technology that makes it possible to drill extremely deep wells despite high temperatures and pressures, a new frontier is opening for natural gas and oil exploration.

The technology also provides economic opportunities for thousands of American workers. "The trickle down is huge," Briggs said about the McMoRan well. "It'll provide jobs. It'll provide continued exploration."

It also will provide clean-burning natural gas to heat homes and power industries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects natural gas will play a very important role in the nation's overall energy portfolio for decades. In 2030, natural gas is expected to account for 21.8 percent of the energy Americans use every day.

For more information about the DOE's projection, read the primer below and scroll to page 25. In this document, you'll also find other facts about energy development and policy.