Oil major BP is to spend £750million to develop the Liberty oil field in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska, according to the company.
The project will allow BP to tap into an estimated 100million barrels of recoverable reserves at Liberty, with first production from the field expected in the early part of 2011, BP’s development plan says.
BP has said previously that peak production will reach 40,000 barrels a day, although a development plan for the field – discovered in 1997 – has proved problematic.
A proposal to build an artificial island with stand-alone production facilities, a common practice for other offshore fields in the Beaufort Sea, was considered but dropped after costs soared on a similar development at the nearby BP-operated Northstar field.
BP now plans to drill ultra-long reach wells from the existing artificial island that houses facilities for its Endicott field. The result will be the world’s longest laterally-reaching wells.
Oil produced at Liberty will be processed at Endicott, which has surplus processing capacity due to declining production – now down to 15,000 barrels a day, about a 10th of peak production.
US drilling contractor Parker Drilling said it had been awarded a contract to build the drilling rig that BP will use at Liberty.
The BP announcement came on the same day as a symbolic move by US President George Bush to lift one of the barriers to more offshore drilling in US federal waters.
The area of the Beaufort Sea where Liberty is located is not subject to the ban Mr Bush wants to lift to encourage more US domestic production.
Max Petroleum, the London-listed oil operator focused on Kazakhstan, said yesterday that it was generating enough cash to significantly increase and capture the value potential of its two large licences in the central Asian country.
The company reported revenues of £13.75million for the year to March 31 compared to revenues of £750,000 the year before.
Substantial capital spending, however, saw it record pre-tax losses of £18.46million for the period against losses of £16.57million a year earlier.