Shell Goes for the Gold, Drills World's Deepest Offshore Well


Shell Oil Company has set a world water depth record in drilling and completing a subsea well 9,356 feet (1.77 miles) below the water's surface in the Silvertip Field at the Perdido Development project, approximately 200 miles from Houston in the Gulf of Mexico.

Russ Ford, Shell's technology vice president for the Americas said, "Pressing into ever deeper waters shows that the ultra deep is a new frontier for the critical resources to meet the world’s future energy needs. This achievement represents a leap forward in applying sophisticated technologies in rugged sea floor terrain with a harsh environment of very high pressures accessible only by remotely operated vehicles. This means not just reaching a new milestone, but forging new ground in technological innovation."

As an oil well, the Perdido record is 35 percent deeper than the previous oil well record of 6,950 feet, also set by Shell at the Gulf of Mexico's Fourier field. At Perdido, Shell intends to drill an even deeper well at the Tobago field at 9,627 feet, which will surpass the present world record at Silvertip. Shell operates the Perdido Development on behalf of partners Chevron and BP.

The Perdido Development will drill 35 wells (22 direct vertical access and 13 remote) in the Great White, Tobago and Silvertip fields located in Alaminos Canyon. Moored in about 8,000 feet of water, the drilling and production facility will be the deepest in the world. Nine polyester mooring lines averaging more than two miles in length now hold the spar in place. The floating structure will weigh 50,000-tons and be nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower when fully operational.

First production from Perdido is expected around the turn of the decade, with the facility capable of handling 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. To get the oil and gas to market requires installing 77 miles of oil export pipelines and 107 miles of gas export pipelines.

This enormous project began with the 1996 lease sale, when the technology to develop hydrocarbons at Perdido’s water depth did not yet exist. By the time the final investment decision for commercial development was made in October 2006, Shell had pioneered several technological firsts required to develop and produce oil and gas in ultra deepwater. Development drilling began in July 2007, five years after the discovery of hydrocarbons. The spar was installed in August 2008, with its topsides scheduled for installation in 2009.

The Perdido Development includes a common processing hub that incorporates drilling capability and functionality to gather, process and export production within a 30-mile radius of the facility. This concept will provide regional synergies, reduced cost and lower risk as well as reducing the number and size of the facilities and operations in this challenging frontier area, resulting in a lower environmental impact than would otherwise be achieved.