The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth largest body of water in the world, covering a region of about 600,000 square miles. It is surrounded by the United States of America, Mexico and, to the South East, Cuba. It has been at the cutting edge of deep water drilling since the 1930s and currently contains the world’s largest offshore gas platform - The Petronius Platform - which stands 2,000 feet above the ocean floor. The focus of the industry is on the continental shelf as it’s easily accessible and the majority of rigs are centered around the Bay of Campeche and the western gulf.
The Gulf forms a major part of the USA’s oil and gas industry, with an estimated 55,000 workers employed in the process of extracting the crude oil that makes up 23% of the USA’s total output. It also comprises 40% of the total US petroleum, reflected by the large number of petroleum refineries located along the gulf coast.
There are more than 5,000 offshore oil and natural gas platforms operating in the area. Many global companies, such as BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon have a number of footholds in the area. The latest Shell project has been a second Mars platform which is the company’s seventh (and largest) in the gulf. It is notable because it is the first deep-water project in the area to develop an existing oil field and is expected to extend the life of the Mars basin
BP has had a real influence on the area as it has been the biggest investor over the last decade and has the largest amount of acreage holdings – approximately 620 leases. They run four large production platforms: Atlantis, Thunder Horse, Mad Dog and Na Kika. They have been closely involved in recent discoveries, such as the Tiber, which was found in 2009 and thought to be one of the largest fields in the region. It is also one of the deepest wells ever drilled, through 3,132 feet of water to a total depth of 35,055. They also own and operate some oil fields entirely, including the Kaskida.
is investing billions to tap new oil fields. Its most recent platform, the Jack/St. Malo platform is a reflection of the escalation of the number of projects the company is planning over the next few years. They will also be bringing two more large projects online – Big Foot and Tubular Bells – in the near future.
The Gulf of Mexico acts as an area where companies can hone their deep water techniques to then export to other platforms around the world. As such, it’s at the cutting edge of drilling techniques and technology, such as increasing computer capacity and extraction practice. The area has significant advantages over the rest of the world due to its geology, commercial potential and existing pipeline network. Whilst the area remains challenging due to a high number of storms and hurricanes, unpredictable high pressure gas and changeable base salt, its on-going potential and continued growth means that it’s a real magnet for the most highly skilled industry work force.
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