The Thunder Horse Oil Field located in the Mississippi Canyon Block about 125 miles southeast of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico promises to be the first field in the Gulf to produce 1 million barrels of oil a day by 2007.
Thunder Horse is owned 75 percent by BP and 25 percent by ExxonMobil. Rigzone.com, one of the oil industry’s leading analysts of offshore drilling, notes the importance of Thunder Horse for BP. Combined with other BP discoveries in the Gulf – including Atlantis, Holstein, and Mad Dog, Thunder Horse is part of BP’s 2.5 billion barrels of proven reserves in the Gulf, positioning BP to become the premier player in the U.S. deepwater sector.
BP’s success with Thunder Horse defies “Peak Production” oil theorists such as Matthew Simmons, who like to argue that the world is running out of giant oil fields capable of producing 1 million or more barrels of oil a day.
Moreover, Thunder Horse also defies “fossil-fuel” oil theorists who like to argue that oil comes from dead dinosaurs and decaying ancient forests. With the water depth of nearly 2 miles, Thunder Horse is truly an ultra-deep project. From the floor of the Gulf, BP has drilled down another 6 miles to hit oil. What evidence is there that any ancient dinosaur ever walked on land that is now 8 miles down? Moreover, geologists identify the deposits in which BP has found oil in the Thunder Horse Field as Miocene, a period that occurred in the Cenozoic Era, some 24,000 years ago. Dinosaurs by then were long gone, having disappeared at the end of the Mesozoic Era, some 65 million years ago.
To explore Thunder Horse, BP took a leading position in ultra-deep drilling. The semi-submersible hull and drilling rig supporting the floating production, drilling, and headquarters (PDQ) platform is 50 percent larger than the next largest floating semi-submersible rig in the world. At a development cost of approximately $5 billion, the platform features more than 100 industry firsts.
“The Thunder Horse platform exemplifies the revolution in energy production technology that makes it possible to tap into oil and gas reserves that previously were inaccessible,” Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in a February 2005 dedication ceremony for the new rig. “From the Gulf of Mexico to arctic Alaska, we can increase domestic energy production in difficult-to-reach places in a safe and environmentally sensitive way.”
Rigzone.com, in presenting photographs and a detailed description of the PDQ platform, comments that Thunder Horse is a milestone in technical achievement, demonstrating success in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico some of the deepest wells in the world.
The Thunder Horse project forces us to re-evaluate the “doom-and-gloom” logic of “Peak Production” and “fossil-fuel” theorists. Increasingly geologists are paying attention to the deep basement structures that underlie oil fields. Craig Smith and I wrote “Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil” so you, the reader, could understand that credible science supports the contention that oil is an abiotic product naturally produced by the Earth on a continual basis at deep levels within the Earth’s mantle.
A study published by Integrated Geophysics Corporation in Houston, Texas, emphasizes that almost 90 percent of the Gulf’s discovery prospects lie in the 3,000 to 5,000 feet water depth (half mile to one mile down), a key reason the oil industry is developing a “fifth generation” of rigs capable of drilling in water at depths up to 8,000 feet (1.5 miles below the Gulf’s surface). IGC’s research indicates a correlation between the basement rock structure and oil and gas discoveries in the Gulf:
The study’s findings are analogous with producing basins around the world and support the view that hydrocarbon migration pathways are basement controlled. For many explorationists, IGC’s findings are a rude awakening. Today’s new era of deepwater drilling associated spiraling costs make a strong case for the inclusion of basement structure in the analysis and economic assessment of prospective Gulf targets.
This is good news for theorists who argue the abiotic, deep-earth origin of oil. Fractures in the bedrock below sedimentary rock are only important in oil exploration if we are looking for oil that forms in the Earth’s mantle and seeps up through bedrock fractures into the more porous sedimentary deposits that lie above.
Exploration in the Gulf of Mexico is only beginning. The Mississippi Canyon is in the first tier of blocks mapped closest to shore. Radical environmentalists are actively blocking additional oil and gas exploration off the California and Florida shores. How possibly can we say the United States has reached “peak production” when political objections continue to block offshore oil production that could well move America toward oil independence?
As ultra-deep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico continues to validate abiotic, deep-Earth theories, we should also consider exploring oil deeper in the continental United States, to find the basement fractures beneath the huge surface oil fields we now consider depleted. If the oil in Texas and Pennsylvania did not come from dinosaurs or decaying ancient plants, maybe we could find the deeper “source revenues” where that oil seeped up from fractures in the bedrock crystalline basement below.