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Vol. 11, No. 51 Week of December 17, 2006
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

No boom from GOM Thunder Ridge field

Murphy: Deepwater exploration well in Gulf of Mexico encounters wet sands and ‘small oil accumulation’

Ray Tyson

For Petroleum News

Field operator Murphy Oil, following deepwater exploration successes at Thunder Hawk and Thunder Bird, appears to have come up short at Thunder Ridge. All three of Murphy’s “Thunder” prospects are within spitting distance of the BP-operated Thunder Horse field, the largest ever oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Thunder Ridge exploratory well and sidetrack, drilled on Mississippi Canyon Block 737 in over 6,100 feet of water, encountered wet sands in the primary objective and “a small oil accumulation” in a shallower secondary objective, Murphy said Nov. 30.

“Post-drilling analysis will continue to determine if the resource found can be commercially viable as a tie-back to another facility,” Murphy said of Thunder Ridge drilling results, adding that the Thunder Ridge exploration well was “temporarily” plugged and abandoned.

However, with predrill reserve estimates of 100- to 200-million barrels of oil equivalent, Thunder Ridge’s small oil accumulation would have to be considered a disappointment. Weeks earlier Thunder Hawk was sanctioned as a standalone development with just 50-to 80 million barrels of estimated reserves.

Murphy holds a 37.5 percent working interest in Thunder Ridge. Partners Dominion Exploration & Production, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S.-based Dominion Resources, and Norway’s Hydro Gulf of Mexico each holds a 25 percent share of Thunder Ridge. Marubeni Offshore Production (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of Japan’s Marubeni Corp., holds a 12.5 percent interest in the field.

Semisubmersible production unit for Thunder Hawk

Murphy’s Thunder Hawk discovery, on Mississippi Canyon Block 736 in 5,700 feet of water, is to be developed using a semisubmersible production unit capable of handling 45,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and expandable to 60,000 barrels per day with slight modifications. First oil is scheduled for 2009.

Murphy said the Thunder Hawk facility could be further expanded to receive production from future satellite discoveries or third-party tie-backs. Thunder Ridge is located just six miles east of Thunder Hawk, suggesting that Thunder Ridge production, if development is approved, could be a candidate for tie back to the standalone Thunder Hawk production facility.

Murphy has said its Thunder Bird discovery likely would be developed, with production tied back via a sub-sea pipeline to the Dominion-operated Devil’s Tower platform on Mississippi Canyon Block 773.

Predrill reserve estimates for Thunder Bird range from 50- to 75 million barrels of oil equivalent. The discovery is located about 15 miles west of Thunder Hawk.

Murphy says sidetrack required at Thunder Bird

However, Murphy has said that another exploratory well — a sidetrack off the discovery well — would be required before the owners decide whether to pursue development at Thunder Bird.

Thunder Hawk, Thunder Bird and Thunder Ridge are on the edge of the Boarshead Basin, a highly fertile region of the Central Gulf of Mexico that had industry analysts speculating over resource potential before the colossal Thunder Horse discovery was announced in 1999.

Thunder Horse, scheduled to come on stream in mid-2008 after several delays, contains an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent reserves. The Thunder Horse North satellite contains an additional 400 million barrels of estimated reserves. Owned by BP (75 percent) and ExxonMobil (25 percent), Thunder Horse is expected to produce 250,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Murphy and its partners, before deciding on a standalone facility for Thunder Hawk, considered tying back Thunder Hawk production to the Thunder Horse facility.



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