BHP Billiton: Crews Return to Neptune Facility in GOM

During a routine inspection immediately prior to start up of the Neptune tension leg platform (TLP) in the Gulf of Mexico, BHP Billiton found structural anomalies in the hull. As a safety precaution, the Company made the decision to remove all personnel from the facility until the situation could be fully assessed.

BHP Billiton has since performed a rigorous analysis that confirms the facility is safe for crews to return to work and crews began boarding the platform March 24. Further inspection and assessment is underway to determine the appropriate course of action to mitigate the anomaly.

The Neptune TLP, which is located approximately 120 miles off the Louisiana coastline, was scheduled to start up first oil and natural gas production by the end of March and the Company is currently assessing all the options in order to re-commence start up activities. The schedule for first production will be updated.

BHP Billiton is designated operator of the field with a 35% interest. Partners include Marathon Oil Company (30%), Woodside Energy (USA) Inc. (20%), a subsidiary of Woodside Petroleum Ltd., and Maxus (U.S.) Exploration Company (15%).

Neptune is a single-column TLP and was installed in 4,250 feet (1,300 meters) of water on Green Canyon Block 613. The Neptune field comprises five blocks: Atwater Valley 573, 574, 575, 617 and 618 where water depths range from 4,200 to 6,500 feet (1,275 to 2,000 meters).