Analysis: From Big Foot to Bluto, Gulf of Mexico bolstering U.S. as No. 1 in oil

Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:27pm EDT
 
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By Kristen Hays and Terry Wade

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Reuters) - The Gulf of Mexico, stung by the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history in 2010 and then overshadowed by the onshore fracking boom, is on the verge of its biggest supply surge ever, adding to the American oil renaissance.

Over the next three years, the Gulf is poised to deliver a slug of more than 700,000 barrels per day of new crude, reversing a decline in production and potentially rivaling shale hot spots like Texas's Eagle Ford formation in terms of growth.

The revival began this summer, when Royal Dutch Shell's (RDSa.L: Quote) 100,000 barrels per day Olympus platform was towed out to sea 130 miles south of New Orleans - the first of seven new ultra-modern systems starting up through 2016. It weighs 120,000 tons, more than 200 Boeing 777 jumbo jets.

The Gulf Of Mexico's growth will bolster the United States' emerging role as the world's top oil and gas producer, a trend led by advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that unlock hydrocarbons from tight rock reservoirs in places like North Dakota's Bakken and the Permian of West Texas.

Rising domestic production and the start of natural gas exports may transform the economy and realign geopolitics as U.S. reliance on foreign oil declines.

The resurgence in the Gulf is occurring even though the U.S. government imposed stringent safety and environmental rules after BP Plc's (BP.L: Quote) Macondo spill. Foreign countries from Brazil to Angola have also aggressively courted Big Oil to invest in developing their offshore fields. And the shale boom has diverted billions of dollars in capital onshore.

The deepwater Gulf, considered the most technically challenging offshore oil patch, remains alluring even as other areas struggle. Brazil attracted only a single bid this month for its once-touted Libra field, yet global companies still compete fiercely for the right to drill in the Gulf.

"A barrel of discovered oil in the Gulf of Mexico is difficult to beat for value anywhere else, even with the increased costs of doing business," said Jez Averty, senior vice president of North American exploration at Norway's Statoil (STL.OL: Quote).   Continued...

 
Chevron Corp assembles two ultramodern deepwater oil production platforms at a shipyard in Ingleside, Texas, September 20, 2013. REUTERS/Kristen Hays