9,627 feet: Shell Gulf well sets deep-water record

Shell Oil Company has broken its previous record for the world’s deepest underwater well, the company announced today.

A well in the Gulf of Mexico has set a global record for oil production in deep water, Shell Oil Co. said Thursday.

Shell says it is producing oil from a well 9,627 feet below the surface of the Gulf, a depth more than six times greater than the Empire State Building’s height. It exceeds by 271 feet the depth of the previous record-holder, also a Shell project in the Gulf.

Both wells operate through the Perdido drilling and production platform, 200 miles southwest of Houston. The new record-holder is in the Tobago Field, which Shell jointly owns with Chevron and Nexen, according to the company. The previous record-holding well was in the Silvertip field.

The Perdido platform is moored in 8,000 feet of water, which the company says makes it the world’s deepest-water drilling and production platform.

The company did not say how much the new well is producing, but said the daily capacity of the platform is 100,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas.

The Tobago Field well is several miles away from the platform, and the oil flow must follow an incline along the sea floor before being pumped vertically to the platform, Shell spokesman Jaryl Strong said.

Low pressure

Besides the water’s depth, the project posed a challenge because of the reservoir’s low pressure, which necessitated special technology to push the oil nearly two miles up to the platform on the water’s surface.

Shell noted that it did not have the technological ability to produce oil at such depths in 1996 when it purchased the lease where Perdido operates.

Engineers developed a system of electrical pumps embedded in the seabed that help ship the oil to the surface platform, Strong said.

“The industry is moving into these depths,” he said. “As the industry expands the frontier, it is going to have to come up with solutions like this.”

Equipment in the pro-ject included FMC Technologies’ enhanced vertical deep-water tree system and the five electrical pumps that help push the oil to surface, that Houston-based company said.

Shell is majority owner of the Perdido platform. BP and Chevron also have investment shares.

Perdido serves wells up to seven miles away, Shell said. The company began development drilling in 2007 and oil and gas was first produced in 2010.

Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at the University of Houston, said the achievement has global implications.

“They’ve brought that water depth into the realm of being technologically and economically viable,” Van Nieuwenhuise said.

He noted, however, that the industry is pushing into depths that challenge existing emergency well control systems. Well control equipment developed in the wake of last year’s disastrous Gulf oil spill are designed for use in up to 10,000 feet of water.

Limits to safety?

“They are getting real close to the limit of what we can do safely,” Van Nieuwenhuise said.

Strong said Shell has addressed the risks of producing oil in deep-water conditions.

“There are a number of safety innovations built into the Perdido platform to accommodate the environment it is in, in terms of the great depths and long distance from shore,” he said. “Safety was the No. 1 priority.”

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See the Perdido platform in the video below:


  1. Theodore R. Smith

    Deepwater Horizon 2.0, here we come!!

    Let’s just hope the abiotic oil folks are seriously wrong.

  2. txloanguy

    Oil? Maybe we can have more than a few deep wells in the Gulf? Maybe in the next 10 years or when we get another President.

  3. Mark

    Take that Paris Hilton! A deeper well has been drilled.

  4. Zilch

    The Chinese are protesting.

  5. spacemom

    This is good news for Shell … and GREAT NEWS for the Gulf Coast! It will bring an abundant supply of well-paying jobs …. and cheaper oil supplies. Shell has a great safety record. This is a win-win for everybody!

  6. meetwoodflac

    “Shell noted that it did not have the technological ability to produce oil at such depths when it purchased the lease for Perdido in 1996. It began development drilling in 2007 and produced oil in March of 2010.”

    and in the face of this, the geniuses in gov’t want to shorten the terms of Federal Leases. there’s a good reason for extending the years in a lease and this is it.

  7. Jeff

    High paying jobs in the Gulf! Good job Shell!

  8. David A. Chacon

    Another new record and amazing technological feat achieved thanks to $100/bbl oil. Folks, this doesn’t happen when oil is cheap.

    If you think the economy is sluggish with oil at $100/bbl, you don’t even want to contemplate an economy with oil back at $20/bbl.

    David A. Chacon

  9. Jackalope

    “Shell noted that it did not have the technological ability to produce oil at such depths when it purchased the lease for Perdido in 1996. It began development drilling in 2007 and produced oil in March of 2010.”

    Now that’s foresight – buying a lease knowing you won’t have the technology available to produce for another 10 years. Companies are buying leases today hoping the technology catches up before the lease expires. And Obama wants to shorten lease periods. This is cause companies to become reluctant to buy leases.

  10. Palerider

    Drill baby drill!

  11. Art Vandeley

    Wow the juveniles and uninformed are out today.
    Anyway….. good job Shell. Reaching beyond today’s limits means
    more cutting edge technology and more jobs.

  12. Good job! just hope sound management is used in running the operation.

  13. Marion

    “Shell noted that it did not have the technological ability to produce oil at such depths when it purchased the lease for Perdido in 1996. It began development drilling in 2007 and produced oil in March of 2010.”

    “Now that’s foresight – buying a lease knowing you won’t have the technology available to produce for another 10 years.”

    You can bet these companies were actively working on the technology to produce these wells. That can’t be done when the companies are being taxed out the wazoo.

  14. HaHA


    Wrap your heads around this…

    When a company makes a bid on a lease, they have a decent idea that there is oil there that is worth the bid (the geodata is public); otherwise they wouldn’t make the bid in the first place.

    In other words, by allowing Shell to sit on the lease for a decade, you prevent other companies who may have the technology sooner from making bid in the interim. Additionally, THIS IS NOT THE INDUSTRY’s OIL. It is the public’s, that the industry is allowed to produce in exchange for a handsome profit to both parties, as described in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. (By the way, if you haven’t read OCSLA, and you are commenting on leasing policy, you already DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT)

    So, when did oil cost more? 10 years ago? or now? (I’ll give you a hint: recessions aside, generally the price of oil is increasing)
    So, by allowing companies to sit on leases and bid early you:

    a)reduce revenues to the public since the bids will generally increase with time due rising costs of oil (ie they are bidding at discount, knowing that they can wait years and years until the price goes higher)

    b) reduce the chance of other operators who may be more technologically advanced to produce that oil sooner.

    Both of these points inherently go against the governing legislation for the OCS (OCSLA), which requires the oil to be produced in a timely manner while maximizing revenues to the public.

    That means that all of the folks who just typed something like, “THIS is why companies should be allowed to sit on leases indefinitely; just another reason Obama hates oil/America/freedom… blah blah blah”
    You are simply wrong.

    But keep up the misinformation and back-patting.

    Another generation of blindly political robots that lack the facts and independent critical thinking is just what this country needs.

  15. Observer

    What a disappointment. When one read that “Shell produces oil from world’s deepest well”, the hope was that this completion/production well had been drilled to a depth in the floor of the Gulf which establised a new record. Instead, the record has to do with the water depth before drilling even begins.

    The flare size doesn’t seem especially impressive. Will this well be economical? What are the estimated flow rates? Nearly two miles of steel pipe needed before drill bit hits the earth! Oy! How many insurance companies sharing this risk? Double Oy!

  16. Trail Tramp

    HaHa wrote: “the geodata is public”. It is? Then why have we been spending millions of dollars on purchasing and re-processing seismic data? Please tell me where we can get all this free public geodata!

  17. AvailableUserName

    “You are simply wrong.”

    How about a little head-wrapping yourself. 10 years ago, NOBODY had the technological ability to develop this well. The reason Shell was willing to invest the millions, if not billions, of dollars it took to develop this technology was because they knew they had a lease waiting to use it. Nobody is going to make that kind of capital investment simply on the possibility that they might be able to use it one day.

  18. HaHA

    “That can’t be done when companies are taxed out the wazoo”

    Oh, you mean like they are in other places where they still operate profitably? Are you referring to Taxes, or royalty rates? I’m going to assume you meant both…

    US taxes/royalties on oil are among the lowest in the world; yet these INTERNATIONAL companies (that were largely birthed here, where they hold a huge influence in politics and society), STILL make LARGE profits in the other regulatory/tax regimes world wide (nationalized companies aside).

    So, while I agree with you that, taxing companies “out the wazoo” is not productive, I’m not sure that I would agree that is in fact happening here in the US, if we are using the rest of the world as a barometer. That’s why we burn some of the cheapest oil in the world (aside from the ACTUALLY SOCIALIST gov’ts that almost give it away)



  19. rts

    Just remember, Shell is not an American company. They are a European company.

  20. James

    They can drill all they want, until they stop selling it overseas and start supplying it to us, we will still suffer! Good news for Shell, Good News for China and bad news for US!

  21. EmSeeDubayou

    Theodore R. Smith – what is your comment based on? Trashing everything that is oil?

  22. Kb

    Glad to hear reality and science for real energy needs are still alive with success. Now compare this with the “green” failures our goofy “O” government keeps paying for that are still going on….shovel ready LOL.

    With great fanfare and promises that it “will create nearly 2,000 living wage green jobs,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the Weatherize Every Building program in April of last year with Joe Biden grinning nearby.

    Today the job-creation total stands at 14.

    It’s a complete flop and the 20 million dollar “grant” is held captive somewhere there. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Most of the jobs are administrative, and not the thousands of entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

    The program used a $20 million grant from the federal government to subsidize building retrofits like weatherization.

    Essentially home and business owners who wanted to participate could have a large part of the cost of their retrofits repaid under the WEB program. Not many even signed up. Two businesses are on the plan though and got money, but it’s hidden away. Might wanna check out their political donations ;)

    No one seems to have enough money to pay even a portion of the ecofit costs. What a joke.

  23. Trail Tramp

    Shell Oil Company, the US division, is traded on the NYSE and operates in large part independently of Royal Dutch Shell.

  24. Ted

    November 17, 2011, 1:46 PM
    Just remember, Shell is not an American company. They are a European company.
    Yeah, and the first oil properties they bought to build their company on was in Oklahoma. What’s your point?

  25. HaHA

    Your comments on green energy are a bit uninformed…
    Speaking of trashing everything oil, why don’t we start by addressing everyone who trashes green.
    Is throwing money at a problem the best way to solve it? Probably not. OK. Does that mean all of this is a joke? NO.
    Higher energy prices due to GLOBAL DEMAND (not Obama), will lead to shift in the market.



  26. marcus young

    I have caught lots of tuna with my son underneath this beast! It towers out of the water and looks like a city at night….very cool.

  27. Mark from Louisiana

    Shell shouldn’t be bragging about how deep the well is, obama might start taxing them by the foot.

  28. Kb

    MORE “green” corruption HaHA…let’s throw some more money at it.

    President John F. Kennedy’s nephew, Robert Kennedy, Jr., netted a $1.4 billion bailout for his company, BrightSource, through a loan guarantee issued by a former employee-turned Department of Energy official.

    Sanjay Wagle was one of the principals in Kennedy’s firm who raised money for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. When Obama won the White House, Wagle was installed at the Department of Energy (DOE), advising on energy grants.

    From an objective vantage point, investing taxpayer monies in BrightSource was a risky proposition at the time. In 2010, BrightSource, whose largest shareholder is Kennedy’s VantagePoint Partners, was up to its eyes in $1.8 billion of debt obligations and had lost $71.6 million on its paltry $13.5 million of revenue.

  29. medicalman

    Since when is the GOM 200 miles SouthWEST of Houston. I never realized that Gergetown and Kerrville were in the GOM.

  30. Kaya

    I wish there was billions of cubic feet of natural gas, oil and whatever required. Then growing lake of blood in the Middle East might have been stopped.

  31. HaHA

    Yeah KB, no corruption in oil and gas, right?…
    If there were, I could just sit behind my computer and discount the entire industry.
    It’s not like we went to war and a few huge companies benefited at the expense of the public (I know Cheney has nothing to do with Halliburton either…)
    So your point is that because their is corruption in politics, more specifically in DOE, we can’t trust anything DOE/Obama/anything green?

    While we’re at it, let’s just write off the energy, financial, pharmy and food industries as well… There is plenty of corruption to go around.

  32. Bubba

    Drilled 200 miles SOUTHWEST?? of Houston. That would put it in the Eagle Ford!!!

  33. AvailableUserName

    “I never realized that Gergetown and Kerrville were in the GOM.”

    They were, just not recently.

  34. Lunchtime O'booze

    Guys this is not a record depth of “well.” it is a producing well in record “water depth.” For all you thickos out there – including the journalist in this case obviously, the oil is not directly below the seabed. There are hundreds nay thousands of wells producing at deeper levels than 10000′ But not one in water depth greater than this.

    Never ceases to amaze, even after a few snorts, about how bad the reporting on the oil industry is in what is stated to be the capital of the global oil industry.

    It is hard to define who knows less about the oil industry – the press in Houston or the politicians.

    Barman another please!