Gulf Oil Find Could Boost U.S. Production 50 Percent

Chevron has announced the discovery of a new oil field in the Gulf of Mexico potentially comparable to that in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay.

A vast pool miles below the Gulf of Mexico could total 11% of what the U.S. produces. Skeptics note the uncertainty factor, and the cost.”>discovery of an oil field in the Gulf of Mexico which could rival Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay.

Chevron Corp. and two partners said Tuesday that they had tapped a potentially huge new source of oil in the Gulf of Mexico’s deep waters, fueling hope that further discoveries in the region could help ease the nation’s oil supply woes. The successful test of one of the deepest oil wells ever drilled showed such promise that some believe the undersea oil pool could rank as the largest discovery of crude since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay began producing nearly 40 years ago.

“An opportunity like this only comes once every few decades,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Massachusetts. “It holds out the prospect that this means more supply, and more supply is good news for consumers.”

The geologic formation being targeted by the Chevron group and others could begin producing oil steadily as early as 2012, and could yield 800,000 barrels of crude a day, or about 11% of total U.S. production, according to an August assessment of the region by Yergin’s firm.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron, whose partners include Devon Energy Corp. of Oklahoma and Norway’s Statoil, wouldn’t quantify the size of its find, except to note that the gulf’s deep waters could hold 3 billion to 15 billion barrels of oil — at the high end, a more than 50% boost to U.S. petroleum reserves.

It’s a bit premature until drilling commences but FP’s Christine Chen believes we could be witnessing “An end to the end of oil?” Staggering, if true.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Vicious right wing censors stopping James from revealing the news about the major oil find?

    N.B. This comment was made when the entire post content was

    Gulf Oil Find Could Boost U.S. Production 50 Percent
    By James Joyner
    Chevron has announced the

  2. James Joyner says:

    A glitch in the HTML ate part of the post. It’s restored more-or-less to what I wrote the first time.

  3. JTD says:

    More detailed information about the new (future) production trend.

    Not sure about point 5 – the basin in relativley cool and significant liquid production from 20,000 feet in the area is not unknown. The test results were reported in BOPD, and if gas would have been reported in MMCFGD. Most of the other technical points seem OK.

  4. DC Loser says:

    Now the trick is to avoid the platforms and pipelines from being destroyed by future hurricanes.

  5. I have heard two theories on where the oil comes from. Many moons ago when I was in school, the theory was the the oil is left over from prehistoric biomass. The more recent theory is that the existence of methane on the other planets points to the possibility that the hydrocarbons where here when the Earth was formed and time/pressure changes them into the oil we all love, with the geology of the earth dictating what stays or aggregates where.

    The depth of this find would point to the second explanation making more and more sense. If so, it would argue that the amount of oil is likely to be much more than we have anticipated, just the extent that we will have to drill for it being harder and harder.

  6. Anderson says:

    YAJ’s abiogenic theory is wiki’d here. Another instance where the free market is invaluable–I’ll believe what the oil companies spend $$$ believing, until shown otherwise.

    I don’t see how the depth is relevant–couldn’t that region have been on the surface, tens of millions of years ago?

  7. Anderson,

    I agree that looking where people are putting their money is a good place to start when you don’t have expertise on the subject. And it may be there is truth to both aspects. Of course, here in Texas they tell the story about everyone thinking Spindle Top was the wrong place to drill before a loaner drilled there and came a gusher. I would suspect that given the enormous costs associated with proving this out, it would be pretty hard for a modern day Patillo Higgens to test out his theory.

    As far as something 5 miles below sea level having once been where the dinosaurs roamed, it is possible. But the deeper you go, the harder it becomes to support. I would think that the geology would be able to know this better as they could show the subsidence. But since Texas was under water where most of our oilfields are, it would seem that further out in the gulf was likewise under water. So then you have to account for about 4 miles of stuff on top of this oil. Certainly possible, but it just doesn’t strike me as logical.