BP finds trove of oil in Gulf of Mexico using new subsea imaging
By David Hunn
April 27, 2017 Updated: April 27, 2017 10:25am
British oil major BP has discovered 200 million barrels of oil in a hidden cache in the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to a technological breakthrough allowing the company to see beneath geological formations that had befuddled oil exploration for decades.
The find, worth a potential $2 billion in recoverable oil, is in an undrilled section of BP's Atlantis field in 7,000 feet of water 150 miles from New Orleans. Long obscured by a salt dome, which distorts seismic waves that oil companies use to map features below the earth, the oil reserves were revealed by using a supercomputer and mathematical algorithm to interpret the seismic data in a new way.
The Gulf find is another example of oil companies advancing technology to make unexpected discoveries. The advent of seismic imaging allowed oil and gas companies to model mineral layers below the earth's surface and drill more precisely. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing unleashed the U.S. onshore shale revolution.
Now, BP's imaging advance could save drillers hundreds of millions of dollars in false starts and dry wells, and perhaps more important, prevent them from passing up billions of dollars in oil hidden within reach of existing platforms and pipelines.
BP'S FIND BY THE NUMBERS
Barrels of oil discovered: 200 million
Potential value of the discovery: $2 billion
Depth of discovery: 7,000 feet
Distance from New Orleans: 150 miles, in BP's Atlantis field
Imaging under salt formations is a "holy grail," said Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston and managing director of a small oil exploration and production company. "That's really pretty big."
This breakthrough, however, comes when the world is awash in crude and some analysts and economists - even at major companies such as Royal Dutch Shell - predict that demand for oil will wane as soon as the end of the next decade, forcing companies to leave billions of barrels of oil in the ground.
BP itself has shifted its focus in recent years to cleaner-burning natural gas, a very public move toward its view of a low-carbon future, as governments around the world address climate change.