Why BP's big "maybe" matters

Why all the fuss over BP’s latest Keathley Canyon find (aka Tiber)?

Transocean’s semi-submersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon drilled BP’s new Tiber well. (AP Photo/Transocean)

First, it’s in a layer of the earth’s geology called the Lower Tertiary, a region that as recently as this decade wasn’t thought to be very good for oil prospects. Everyone is busy out there these days, with operations including Shell’s Perdido field (scheduled to come online later this year) and Anadarko’s multiple projects.
Second, it’s another record for drilling depth, at 35,055 feet. The new record keeps the train rolling for the industry’s drive for new technological milestones. Actually getting production from the field, where pressures and temperatures are likely higher than at Perdido, will likely require even more envelope-pushing. And there’s nothing like a little competition between the companies to keep things interesting.
Third, it could be really big, “more than 3 billion barrels,” BP says. That’s bigger than BP’s other recent big find in the same area, Kaskida.
Of course there are a lot of caveats: not all of that oil will be recovered, it could be a decade before any of it reaches market, and even at full production it probably would be just a small percentage of our daily usage (sorry, no energy independence yet).
But it’s important to keep lining up the projects, since there are plenty that don’t pan out as expected.