Chevron VP: Deepwater drilling comes back

10 23, 2013 by Daily Advertiser

Three years ago, the future of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico seemed shaky. The deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster and subsequent six-month moratorium left questions about when and if normal energy activity would resume.

The amount of drilling activity, number of rigs and permits issued still have not reached predisaster levels, but the numbers are inching upward, leading to more optimism than ever before about the future of oil and gas drilling in the Gulf.

“Clearly what is going on today is a significant, positive turnaround since what I call the dark days in the aftermath of the Macondo well blowout,” said Steve Thurston, Chevron’s vice president of deepwater exploration and projects, during a keynote address Tuesday at LAGCOE.

Recently, Chevron has focused much of its deepwater activity in the Lower Tertiary Trend, a wide swath of the Gulf that runs south of Texas and Louisiana. Thurston said working in water depths of up to 10,000 feet presents unique challenges but also great opportunities.

“The real key to this is superior planning. We’ve got a team of about 50 people that do nothing but plan geological and geophysical work for the hazards. That way, you’re prepared for what happens when you hit an anomaly. You’ve already figured out what you are going to do, and you can act quickly. If you don’t do the planning, your execution is going to be risky,” Thurston said, adding that it takes about six to nine months to plan each deepwater well.

Fred Ogden, a proposals manager at Ensco International, said he didn’t think companies would be drilling to such depths when he started in the industry in 1977. Now, the possibilities seem almost endless.

“It’s one of the most exciting times in the industry,” Ogden said. “I thought (Thurston’s speech) was very indicative of what the future holds.”

Thurston said there will also be the opportunity and need for the development of advanced technology to reach greater depths. That potential is in areas like seismic imaging, drilling, subsea systems and more.

“What’s normal today was impossible 10 years ago. That’s a fact,” Thurston said. “My belief is what’s impossible today will be normal 10 years from now. ... We need to see the challenge; we need to commit people and money, and get our partnerships together. ... The key is, you’ve got to fund it way before you need it.”

David Boulet, director of business development and finance at Tusk Energy Services, agreed that it is an exciting time to be in the industry, especially with so many new technological developments ahead in the years to come. Boulet said he was not surprised to see the industry rebounding after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

“It made us regroup a little bit and look at things, but this is an industry that keeps moving forward,” Boulet said.