Richard Nehring
Natural Gas
Global Warming

Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Discoveries: Articles by Richard Nehring

2000 Deepwater Discoveries: A Contextual Overview

"Deepwater discoveries in 2000 fell back from the torrid pace set in 1999. Despite this moderate decline, 2000 was still the second best year ever for deepwater discoveries, both in terms of the number of new field discoveries and the amounts discovered.

"This overview of 2000 deepwater discoveries is based on a thorough review of the MMS borehole data, the latest MMS master field list, the offshore industry trade press, and corporate press releases and reports. For a well to be classified as a new field discovery, its drilling must have been completed in 2000, it must not be an extension to an existing field, and its status as a discovery must be confirmed either by an operator announcement or by inclusion in the MMS master field list...." [August 2001]

Gulf of Mexico: Reservoir temperatures, low thermal gradient limit US Gulf's deepwater gas potential

"Recent discussions on the future of the US energy economy have been dominated by a single vision - the increase in non-transportation energy demand to be supplied by natural gas. In no end-use sector is this pattern more pronounced than electrical generation. Nearly all (95-98%) of US generating capacity anticipated to be installed by 2010 is projected to be fired by natural gas. 

"The attraction of this vision is easy to understand. Natural gas has long been recognized as the cleanest fossil fuel. Moreover, natural gas-powered generating equipment is now highly thermally efficient, has a relatively low capital cost, and is easy to permit and install. When these substantial advantages are coupled with the promise of plentiful supplies of natural gas at reasonable prices, the combination seems almost too good to be true. 

"This vision is indeed too good to be true...." [January 2001]

Reviewed by M. King Hubbert, Richard Nehring wrote a book "World Petroleum Availability 1980-2000" [pdf, 419k]
Also available at [1980]
Commentary by Glenn Morton, glenn.morton at, Peterculter, Scotland
Subject: Deepwater Gulf of Mexico
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2001

I worked the Gulf of Mexico deepwater as manager of geophysics for two different oil companies from 1992-2000. I have been involved in the discovery of a lot of small to medium fields, 4 large oil fields (50-100 mmboe) and 3 small giants (100-300 mmboe) in my career. The deepwater is like the opening of a brand new basin. Large discoveries are made early with smaller ones later. We are in the large phase right now. However, that being said, the average field size in the deep water is only 75 million bbl. Crazy Horse is the prize in the entire Gulf as it is the largest field ever found there--1 billion barrels which represents only 2 weeks of world supply.

Can the deepwater increase the production in the US? Maybe, very slightly, but not very long lasting. Deepwater fields will be sucked on so rapidly that it would make what a spider does to a fly seem downright slow. The June issue of Offshore tells the story that you are stating in an article by Nehring, that the deepwater may reach 3 million but there are several assumptions there that are by no means a sure thing. First, the rate of discovery of 1-1.25 billion bbl per year must continue through 2005. In my opinion this is unlikely. Secondly, Nehring said that Atwater valley, Keithly Canyon and Walker Ridge need to contribute large discoveries to meet this goal. The jury is still out on Walker Ridge but Keithley in my opinion has salt that is entirely too thick and the few wells I have heard of on the rumor mill near Keithley indicate scary rocks also. KC 255 had lots of sand in a low, but no trap and looking at the seismic, one can't see the base of salt very often and on a few lines I saw, I could document 21,000 feet of salt. Bosses just love it when you come into their office and tell them that you want to drill 4000 feet of water, 2500 feet of nonprospective sediment above salt, 21,000 feet of salt into God knows what below the salt which is where the only prospective section is. Keithley is absolutely floored by salt, which makes migration pathways a bit of a difficult problem. The failures in Atwater are interesting but may be indicative of problems for that area yielding lots of hydrocarbons. And in southern Atwater, you are on the abyssal plain --structures as flat as a pancake with only one or two exceptions (which Shell owns now but hasn't done anything with). Alaminos canyon might have a few big fields, but they won't be worth much if it takes $105 million to drill one well as it did at Baha!

Will there be discoveries in Atwater, Alaminos, Walker and Keithley? Yes. How much is subject to much debate until the wells go down. Keithley doesn't seem to be getting too many wells in it so the industry must think about the same as I do.

One other thing you are missing with the Nehring story. You are missing the fact that the Shelf production is falling like a rock. which will counteract a bit the increase in production in the deep water. The shelf is on a 6-8% decline right now.

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