Thunder Horse Project to Start Up By End 2008

Location of Thunder Horse
(Click to Enlarge)
LONDON Feb. 6 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

BP PLC's (BP) Thunder Horse oil and gas project is due to start up by the end of 2008, the company's designate chief executive Tony Hayward said Tuesday.

BP had previously said the project wouldn't start before mid-2008.

The start of production at the company's Thunder Horse field in the Gulf of Mexico was postponed from 2005 to 2008, after the offshore platform was damaged due to a technical fault as a hurricane approached.

Thunder Horse - which will produce hydrocarbons from a depth of 6,000 feet - is designed to process 250,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of gas per day, BP said.

Hayward made the comments at a press conference following the announcement of BP's fourth-quarter earnings. He will replace current BP Chief Executive John Browne as CEO in August.

Earlier Tuesday, BP posted a 22% drop in net profit for the fourth quarter, hurt by lower output and declining natural gas prices and refining margins.

At 1242 GMT, BP's shares were trading down 1.85%, or 10 pence, at 531.5 pence.

Hayward also said the start-up of Atlantis, another Gulf of Mexico project, is now due by the end of 2007. The company had previously said production was scheduled to start in the second half of the year. The platform's planned capacity is 200,000 barrels of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas a day.

About Thunder Horse, Hayward said "it will happen." The project is now three years behind the original schedule.

Thunder Horse is "something that hasn't been done before...We probably pushed the technology envelope a little bit too far," he added.

Hayward said the new guidance, more cautious than previously announced, was largely due to supply-chain issues, with the oil services sector now running at full tilt. "There was no new incident. It's just recognizing the reality of the industry today," he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the press conference, Hayward also said the company will decide in 2008 whether to go ahead with an expansion plan for its 60,000 b/d Clair oil field in the U.K. North Sea.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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