Key facts

Location: Gulf of Mexico, USA; 320 kilometres (200 miles) south-west of New Orleans, Louisiana

Water depth: 2,900 metres (9,500 feet)

Interests: Shell 100% owner and operator

Field: Stones field, discovered in 2005

Production: An estimated 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day at peak production.

Project overview

Shell announced the final investment decision to develop the Stones field in May 2013. Work then began to construct the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel and subsea infrastructure. The FPSO, called Turritella, set sail from a shipyard in Singapore in October 2015 and arrived in the Gulf of Mexico in January 2016.

Development of the Stones field began with two subsea production wells tied back to Turritella. Six further production wells will be added later, as well as a multi-phase system to pump oil and gas from the seabed to the FPSO, increasing recoverable volumes and production rates. All eight wells will ultimately be connected to Turritella. The reservoir depth is around 8,077 metres (26,500 feet) below sea level, and 5,181 metres (17,000 feet) below the mud line.

Technology

An FPSO design was chosen to produce oil and gas safely and efficiently from the Stones ultra deep-water field. Tankers transport oil from Turitella to US refineries, while a pipeline transports gas.

Stones uses a special type of flexible pipe, known as a steel lazy wave riser, to carry oil and gas to Turritella for processing. Shell pioneered steel lazy wave risers, which have additional buoyancy creating an arched bend in the pipes between the seafloor and the surface. This bend helps to absorb the motion of the FPSO and boosts production performance at extreme depths.

The FPSO also features a turret into which fits a disconnectable buoy carrying mooring lines and risers from the well system. The turret and buoy design allows the vessel to turn with the wind during normal weather conditions. If a heavy storm or hurricane approaches, the vessel is able to disconnect from the buoy and sail to safer waters. The Stones project represents the first use of a disconnectable buoy configured with steel lazy wave risers to unlock oil resources in ultra-deep waters.

Shell has more than a dozen deep-water FPSOs around the world but Turritella is the first FPSO in use in the Gulf of Mexico.

Society and environment

For decades, the US Gulf of Mexico has been a heartland of energy production. Thousands of Shell employees and contractors work each day to safely find, develop and produce the Gulf of Mexico’s vast oil and gas resources to help power our lives. Safety is crucial to this work. Across all of Shell’s operations, we strive to achieve what we call Goal Zero – no harm to people or the environment.

Shell has been a part of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast for more than 100 years. We are committed to helping shape a positive future for the region through our business activities, social investment programs and employee volunteer work. We partner with many non-profit organisations to support conservation, education in science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM) and economic development projects across the Gulf Coast. Our employees also spend thousands of hours volunteering each year to help rebuild damaged homes, protect and restore Louisiana’s coast, and inspire the state’s next generation of scientists, engineers and leaders.

Related press releases

The yellow buoy is moored at the water’s surface and slots into the floating vessel to enable oil and gas production.

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View of the floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) at sea.

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