Oil drilling is big money, but $1.5 trillion in crude? Even the most savviest of oil tycoons would never have thought that a reserve of oil, located in the Gulf of Mexico, would yield a potential trillion dollar output. The Financial Post profiled Texaco Inc. geologist Robert Ryan's find on Sept. 13. His discovery is said to change the future of energy in the Gulf.
In 1996, Texaco and its partners Royal Dutch Shell, Amoco Corp. and Mobil Corp. started off digging where no one thought they would find anything. The dry hole was located in the Lower Tertiary, a post-dinosaur layer of the earth’s crust that is over 25 million years old, considered by many to be the Gulf of Mexico's last frontier.
The heart of the Lower Tertiary is 10 thousand feet below sea level and is hundreds of miles from the U.S. shore. A helicopter ride from New Orleans would take three hours to arrive at the platform. Drilling depth is five miles, “where temperatures are more than hot enough to boil water and high pressures approach the weight of four cars resting on one square inch,” says the Post.
The drilling paid off, in $1.5 trillion ways. The trove of fossil-fuel riches found beneath the ocean’s sands is an incredible find.
Just how much oil is waiting to be plumbed? Researchers estimate that by 2020, the Lower Tertiary could be producing 2 million barrels of oil a day. Over 15 billion barrels of discoverable oil are thought to exist.
After the breakthrough deep-water discovery, Ryan said he “immediately flew to New Orleans to show Shell leaders what we discovered – the ‘whopper sand,’” as Ryan called it. “It was a major revelation to be able to correlate the seismic data to the extensive and continual sands that we found, which covered two-thirds of the deep-water Gulf of Mexico.”
The yield has tremendous potential, and comes at a time when the U.S. is actively looking to wean its dependency on foreign oil.
“What catches our attention is the potential,” Ryan said, “billions of barrels right in our own backyard.”