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Thunder Horse Delay Due to Subsea Manifold Cracks -Analyst

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HOUSTON Aug 26, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The latest delay in the start-up schedule for BP PLC's (BP) giant Thunder Horse project was caused by cracked welds at an underwater structure, an analyst said Friday.

BP and technology provider FMC Technologies Inc. (FTI) recently detected two cracked joints in steel manifold that leaked during a recent test, according to a report by Houston-based energy consultancy Pickering Energy Partners.

The manifold, built by Houston-based FMC Technologies, is a massive subsea structure designed to send oil and gas from individual wells up toward the production platform.

The structure could have been damaged last year, when the platform was left listing after the passage of hurricane Dennis, the report said.

A FMC Technologies spokesman declined to comment, referring all queries to BP. BP didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The U.K.-based energy giant said in a July conference call that leaks in the manifold would delay first production at Thunder Horse from late 2006 into early 2007, but didn't specify the cause of the damage.

Before last year's accident, Thunder Horse, the world's largest semi-submersible oil and gas platform, was originally scheduled to start in the second half of 2005.

The cracked welds were discovered after BP pulled the manifold out of the water, according to the Pickering report. A similar manifold at BP's Atlantis project, also manufactured by FMC Technologies, was examined as well, but no cracks were found.

Thunder Horse is the world's first major high-pressure, high-temperature subsea project, according to the FMC Technologies Web site.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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