BP begins pumping oil from Gulf expansion project

A new subsea production system at one of BP’s major oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico has begun collecting crude from a prolific new well, the company said Monday.

BP’s effort to expand operations south in the deep-water Thunder Horse field, which it discovered in 1999, could eventually bring output up by 50,000 barrels of oil and gas equivalent per day there, raising its deep-water Gulf production by about one-fifth.

The British driller broke with oil industry tradition by assembling a three-story manifold — a seafloor system that collects oil from multiple wells — and flowlines with standardized equipment, rather than building a new customized system piece by piece. Costs for the project came in 15 percent under budget, saving about $150 million.

This new system, two miles south of the oil production platform that pumps crude from the deep-water Thunder Horse field, is hooked up to a well that hit 500 feet of net pay, or oil and gas-soaked sand, its biggest find in the region so far. It’s the first of three southern wells BP plans to bring into production there.

The project came into production in early December, nearly a year ahead of schedule. It’s the first of several projects this year that BP expects will help raise oil production by 800,000 barrels a day by 2020, said BP chief executive Bob Dudley, in a prepared statement.

BP first started pumping oil and gas from the Thunder Horse field, one of its four major hubs in the Gulf, in 2008.