Thunder Horse Oil Field

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Thunder Horse oil field
Thunder Horse Semisub.jpg
Thunder Horse Platform in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005.
Thunder Horse Oil Field is located in the US
Thunder Horse Oil Field
Location of Thunder Horse oil field
Country United States
Region Gulf of Mexico
Location Mississippi Canyon
Blocks 776, 777, 778
Offshore/onshore Offshore
Coordinates 28°06′33″N 88°29′40″W / 28.1091°N 88.4944°W / 28.1091; -88.4944Coordinates: 28°06′33″N 88°29′40″W / 28.1091°N 88.4944°W / 28.1091; -88.4944
Operator BP plc
Partners BP plc (75%)
ExxonMobil (25%)
Field history
Discovery 1999
Start of development 2000
Start of production 2007
Current production of oil 250,000 barrels per day (~1.2×10^7 t/a)
Current production of gas 200×10^6 cu ft/d (5.7×10^6 m3/d)
Estimated oil in place 1,000 million barrels (~1.4×10^8 t)
Producing formations Lower Tertiary

Thunder Horse oil field is a large offshore deepwater oil field in the Gulf of Mexico, around 150 miles (240 km) southeast of New Orleans, Louisiana.


The field is being developed by BP plc and 25% partner ExxonMobil[1] It is the largest offshore production platform in the Gulf, with a processing capacity of 250 thousand barrels per day (40×10^3 m3/d) of oil and 200 million cubic feet per day (5,700,000 m3/d) of natural gas, and the field is believed to hold in excess of 1 billion barrels (160×10^6 m3) of oil.[2] Actual production approached capacity in March 2009, but started to decline soon after that.[3]

Discovery and development[edit]

The Thunder Horse discovery well was drilled in 1999 on Mississippi Canyon block 778. It was drilled to a depth of 25,770 feet (7,850 m) from the drillship Discoverer 534, hitting three intervals of oil.

A second well was drilled in block 822, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southeast of the initial discovery, reaching a depth of 29,000 feet (8,800 m) in November 2000 and also encountered three primary intervals of oil.

In February 2001 a new field known as Thunder Horse North was drilled in block 776, approximately 5 miles northwest of the original field. This well reached 26,000 feet (7,900 m) and again met three intervals of oil.[citation needed]

Actually developing the field was a major technological challenge due to the depth of the find. Not only are the distances large, but at such depths the formations holding the hydrocarbons create pressures over 1,200 bars (120 MPa) and temperatures of 135 °C (275 °F). Prior to Thunder Horse, no field had ever been developed at such a depth.

Following lengthy delays caused by the need to repair and replace components in the subsea system (following a failure during pre-commissioning checks), "First oil" came on June 14, 2008. Since then, Thunder Horse has steadily ramped up its production by bringing on new wells. In March 2009, Thunder Horse produced close to 250,000 barrels per day (40,000 m3/d) oil equivalent in oil and natural gas from seven wells. Plans were in place to add two additional wells in 2009 to further develop the north end of the field. By January 2010 the MMS data indicated that total daily production during 2009 had declined from near 250,000 to 175,000 barrels per day (39,700 to 27,800 m3/d).[4][5] The Washington Post noted in May 2010 that "There could be less off-shore oil than the [Obama] administration assumes" quoting an analysis in by Glenn Morton, a consultant for oil exploration projects who stated that "Thunder Horse hasn't reached anywhere near its expected potential," in oil or natural gas a fact which "underscore[s] the point that deepwater oil drilling is a tricky process, and not always as easy or predictable as thought"[6]

Thunder Horse platform[edit]

Thunder Horse PDQ is the largest moored semi-submersible production oil platform in the world, located in 1,920 metres (6,300 ft) of water in the Mississippi Canyon Block 778/822, about 150 miles (240 km) southeast of New Orleans.

Construction costs were around five billion USD, and the platform is expected to operate for 25 years.[7]

The hull section was constructed by DSME in South Korea and delivered in to Kiewit Offshore Services in Ingleside, Texas on 23 September 2004 aboard MV Blue Marlin for completion.[8] Thunder Horse was completed at Kiewit Offshore Services in nearby Ingleside, Texas.

Thunder Horse PDQ was evacuated with the approach of Hurricane Dennis in July 2005. after the hurricane passed, the platform was listing badly. The platform was designed for a 100-year event, and inspection teams found no hull damage, and no water was taken on from a leak through its hull. Rather, an incorrectly plumbed, 6-inch length of pipe allowed water to flow freely among several ballast tanks that set forth a chain of events causing the platform to tip into the water.[9][10] The platform was fully righted about a week after Dennis, delaying commercial production initially scheduled for late 2005.[11] During repairs, it was discovered that the underwater manifold was severely cracked due to poorly welded pipes. The rig's design engineer, Gordon Aaker, said that the cracked manifold could have caused a catastrophic oil spill.[12]

The platform took a near-direct hit six weeks later by Hurricane Katrina, but was undamaged.

Naming dispute[edit]

Originally called Crazy Horse, BP changed the name out of respect to descendants of the Native American warrior of the same name. The company said that it acted after the family of the Lakota warrior and spiritual leader told them that use of his name outside of a spiritual context is sacrilegious.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bergin, Tom (2008-06-17). "BP's Thunder Horse starts oil and gas production". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  2. ^ "Still a Mystery". Petroleum News. March 6, 2005. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  3. ^ "BP's Thunder Horse to Under-Perform in the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Blowout?". The Oil Drum. April 30, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  4. ^ Thunder Horse Oil Production in Thousand Barrels per Day, based on data of Minerals Management Services
  5. ^ BP's Thunder Horse to underperform in the wake of the deepwater horizon blowout?
  6. ^ Wonkbook: Primary results complicate FinReg; read Elena Kagan's every written word; oil reaching Louisiana
  7. ^ "Thunder Horse in the Gulf". WorldNetDaily. November 10, 2005. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  8. ^ "Dockwise Delivers Thunder Horse PDQ to Corpus Christi". Rigzone. September 24, 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-28. 
  9. ^ "GVA 4000 Thunderhorse". GVA. 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  10. ^ David Greising (28 May 2007). "Troubles Run Deep on Gulf Oil Platform". RedOrbit. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Benoit Faucon (July 26, 2005). "BP CEO: Thunder Horse 2005 Start 'Unlikely'". Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Lyall, Sarah. In BP’s Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders. New York Times, 2010-07-13.
  13. ^ "Vision Led to Crazy Horse Find". American Association of Petroleum Geologists. 2002-03-02. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 

External links[edit]