Exploration and production in deep water (500-2000 m) and ultradeep water (>2000 m) have expanded greatly during the past 15 years, to the point that they are now major components of the petroleum industry's annual upstream budget. Most E&P activity has concentrated in only three deepwater areas of the world—the northern Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, and West Africa. Globally, deep water remains an immature frontier, with many deepwater sedimentary basins being explored only lightly.
Deepwater discoveries account for less than 5% of the current worldwide total oil-equivalent resources1, although this amount is increasing rapidly. These resources are predominantly oil and are concentrated in non-OPEC countries. Thus, deep water represents an important component of the world's future oil equation. Gas exploration in deep water is extremely immature, reflecting current infrastructure and economic limitations, but it is also destined to become a major focus in the future.
Although the global deepwater play was initially restricted to a few large major companies, progressively smaller companies have become involved throughout time. Presently, even large- or medium-size companies must understand the geologic, engineering, and economic characteristics of the deepwater play. Generally, smaller companies are exploring in areas where (1) major infrastructure already exists, and consequently where they are able to operate, and/or (2) they can be a partner with a limited working interest, thus limiting their financial risk while still exposing themselves to potentially high rewards.
This chapter presents an overview of exploration and development in deepwater settings. The first part addresses the