[UNITED STATES] Thunder Horse platform finally pumping after three-year delay

BP's long-delayed Thunder Horse platform in the Gulf of Mexico is finally pumping oil and gas.

BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said today that Thunder Horse started pumping from a single well on Saturday, launching the start of a lengthy commissioning process.

"There's still a lot of work to do. There are other wells to prepare for production and others to drill and complete. But we're on track, making good progress, and on schedule to have the field online by year-end," he said.

When the structure 150 miles southeast of New Orleans reaches its full daily capacity of 250,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas, Thunder Horse will be the biggest producer in the Gulf.

Thunder Horse originally was slated to start producing three years ago. But system and design troubles prompted lengthy delays for repairs.

Ballast system failures left the installation listing 20 degrees after Hurricane Dennis blew through the Gulf in July 2005. About a year later a crucial piece of equipment on the seabed sprung a leak, forcing BP to haul the piece back to shore for repairs.

When running at full tilt, Thunder Horse alone will increase overall U.S. oil and gas production by 3.6 percent. Add BP's Atlantis platform that started up last year, and the boost grows to 6.4 percent.

Analysts have said that is likely the biggest production increase from just two locations that the U.S. has seen in a decade. BP owns three-fourths of Thunder Horse and Exxon Mobil Corp. holds a one-fourth interest.

Source: Houston Chronicle| By KRISTEN HAYS

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