McMoran Exploration and Noble Affiliates announced the discovery of hydrocarbons on the initial well drilled under their multi-well partnership in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The Vermilion Block 196 No. 2 well was drilled by Marine Drilling's jackup, Marine 15 to a total depth of 14,798 feet and encountered 70 feet of net hydrocarbon pay in three sands in approximately 115 feet of water. The well will be temporarily abandoned and the Marine 15 will move to Vermilion Block 144 to drill the remaining approximate 3,000 feet of a McMoRan-operated exploratory test well there, temporarily suspended at a depth of 15,000 feet earlier this year. Based on initial well log analysis, the development of Vermilion Block 196 together with the drilling of an additional well to produce the reserves previously discovered by Shell Offshore Inc., the original lessee of the block, is expected to recover approximately 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalents. Vermilion Block 196 is operated by McMoRan in an area where it controls 15,000 acres with a number of other prospective exploration opportunities.