Main content | back to top
Unlocking energy from deep water
We have announced the launch of the Appomattox deep-water development in the Gulf of Mexico – featuring our eighth and largest floating platform in the region – which adds to our strong global portfolio of deep-water projects. The most recent of these projects to come on stream was the Gumusut-Kakap floating platform off the coast of Malaysia.
Gumusut-Kakap is Shell’s first deep-water project in Malaysia. It is expected to achieve a peak annual production of 135,000 barrels of oil daily.
The Gumusut-Kakap field is located in waters up to 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) deep. The platform is expected to reach an annual peak oil production of around 135,000 barrels a day and contribute up to 25% of Malaysia’s oil production.
Gumusut-Kakap follows a number of successful Shell deep-water start-ups in 2014. In the US Gulf of Mexico, the Cardamom development has extended the production life of the pioneering Auger platform.
Oil from Cardamom is piped through Shell’s existing Auger platform, providing an additional peak production of 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.
Also in the Gulf, the Olympus platform started production from the new Mars B development. Mars B is the first deep-water project in the Gulf to expand an existing oil and natural gas field with new infrastructure.
Heavier than more than 300 Boeing 747 jumbo jets and 124 metres (406 feet) tall, Olympus is tethered with immensely strong mooring lines stretching thousands of metres down to the seabed. Combined future production from Olympus and the original Mars platform has the potential to reach an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe).
In August Shell announced first oil at the Bonga North West project off Nigeria. This was a significant step forward for the Bonga project, Nigeria’s first deep-water development in water depths over 1,000 metres, which began producing oil and gas in 2005.
All of these projects boost Shell’s contribution to meeting growing energy demand from deep water. Operating at extreme depths around the world requires advanced technologies, high safety standards and a responsible approach.
Cardamom, Mars B and Bonga North West all make use of existing infrastructure, limiting impact on the marine environment.
Engineers designed the Olympus and Auger platforms to withstand the most violent storms that hit the Gulf, bringing high seas and hurricanes. And the projects’ advanced technologies must operate reliably under extreme water pressure and in icy conditions far below the ocean’s surface.
Such challenges are not unique to these developments. Every deep-water project demands significant investment, major feats of engineering and detailed steps to protect people and the environment. So why are energy companies like Shell continuing to go deeper and deeper?
Shell deep-water projects
Around 270 billion barrels of recoverable oil lie beneath deep water, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). These will be a vital part of the energy mix as global demand rises.
Deep-water oil already accounts for 7% of all conventional oil produced. The IEA predicts an expansion to 11% in 2040, reaching a level of almost 11 million barrels a day.
A global approach
We employ teams of experts and operate worldwide facilities to design and develop deep-water projects, and we also partner with others. Our deep-water activities extend from the Gulf of Mexico to the China Sea, from the Norwegian continental shelf to the waters off Nigeria’s coast. Shell has decades of experience in developing and operating deep-water projects. We produced around 370,000 boe every day from our deep-water projects in 2014, nearly 12% of our total global production. In addition, we have significant new projects under development.
At existing fields, we are finding ways to increase production and extend the lifespan of fields. The Mars B project’s Olympus platform is expected to extend production at the Mars Field until 2050 or beyond. We have also upgraded facilities at the Draugen field off the coast of Norway to extend production well beyond its original 20-year lifespan.
We have eight deep-water projects under construction, some in new frontiers. Advanced exploration, seismic and modelling developments have allowed us to make fresh discoveries. This includes a technique that creates a wide angle between seismic sound wave transmitters and receivers to better see beneath thick layers of salt that can mask oil and gas reservoirs. Thanks in part to this approach we have made major discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico – four in 2014 alone – with over 1.3 billion barrels of resources added there for Shell since 2009.
The Olympus platform started production in the Gulf of Mexico in February 2014
The extreme locations of our projects pose unique challenges. In some of the world’s roughest seas off the coast of Norway, for example, a massive landslide over 8,200 years ago created a dramatically uneven seabed, with craters and craggy hills. Engineers had to level the seabed before safely laying down equipment. They created a vast rock foundation – the latest installation to house more production wells required a foundation that could fill 200 Olympic swimming pools.
In contrast, the soft sand in the Campos Basin, Brazil, makes drilling for oil and gas at Parque das Conchas project like digging a hole in the beach – posing its own technical challenges.
Oil and gas reservoirs at our Perdido project in the Gulf of Mexico are scattered. We placed a platform on top of a giant floating steel cylinder, called a spar. It uses a system of mooring lines that can be pulled in or let out to reposition the spar over drilling locations on the seabed, allowing it to tap into the pockets of oil and gas.
At all our operations, including those far below the ocean’s surface, safety is always our top priority. The BP Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010 showed the potentially devastating impact if things go wrong. Following this incident, we joined a consortium with eight other leading companies to improve drilling safety and minimise environmental impact in the event of a serious incident. Work has included building a global response system able to cap a well at depths of up to 3,000 metres (over 9,800 feet).
We also joined with other companies that operate in the US Gulf of Mexico to form the Marine Well Containment Company. It set up a rapid-response system that is designed to cap and shut in a well, or capture, contain and flow leaking oil safely to storage in the event of any future underwater well blowout.
All wells at Shell operations must meet rigorous design and construction standards. We use advanced sensors to monitor deep-water wells in real time. This allows engineers based in onshore operations centres to identify any potential risks and respond immediately.
Our advanced technical approach to the safety of wells is combined with extensive training of all our engineers who work on wells. They must qualify through an externally, globally recognised three-year training programme before they can work unsupervised as a well or completion engineer or rig-site supervisor.
Workers stand on board the Bonga floating production, storage and offloading platform
Developing deep-water energy resources helps boost national economies. The Campos Basin, site of our Parque das Conchas project, provides 85% of Brazil’s oil production. We are working with local people to help them better understand our activities and the potential benefits the revenue generated can bring.
We also invest directly in local communities. This includes programmes to help boost skills, such as an initiative in Brazil to help small businesses become suppliers to the oil and gas industry.
In Nigeria, at the Bonga deep-water project, a giant floating, production, storage and offloading vessel moored in over a kilometre of water receives crude from production wells on the seabed. The Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo) manages the project and has helped locals develop job skills – including to work on the project – as well as supporting local businesses.
In Malaysia, our Gumusut-Kakap project is supporting the government’s efforts to develop the economy. The facility was built in a shipyard in Johor while the project is led from Shell’s offices in Kuala Lumpur.
Respect for nature
Maintaining the balance of the marine environment in deep water is vital for the health of the planet. In partnership with environmental experts, we work to reduce the impact of our operations. Our rigorous approach includes a systematic assessment of the potential impacts of any activities on people and the environment.
We also fund projects to help protect marine life in areas close to our operations. Our initiatives include support for the first dolphin conservation programme in Malaysia. Off the coast of Brazil we are working with the Scientific Institute Aqualie, a Brazilian non-profit organisation, to learn more about the behaviour of whales.
The Mars B project in the Gulf of Mexico is investing $5 million in community and environmental initiatives, partnering with US Gulf Coast groups that include The Nature Conservancy, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and LA-1 Coalition.