As the Obama administration slowly reopens the Gulf of Mexico to offshore exploration and production activities, the region’s significance as a major reserve for carbon resources becomes better understood as key to U.S. energy security. ExxonMobil has made three huge discoveries—two oil and one natural gas—in the Gulf of Mexico, and believes there is plenty more where that came from.
ExxonMobil estimates the two newly discovered deepwater oil wells to contain 700 million barrels of crude oil. "Seven hundred million barrels doesn't happen very often," John White, an analyst at Houston-based Triple Double Advisors in Houston, said. "That's a lot of oil."
The region of the Gulf where the discovery was made—the lower tertiary geological formation—in believed to hold upward of 15 billion barrels of oil. The biggest discovery made in this region in recent years is BP’s Kaskida play, which is estimated to hold 3 billion barrels of oil.
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"(The discovery) speaks to the fact there are resources in the Gulf and if we have a tax and regulatory environment that will encourage us to find and produce our own domestic oil, the industry will respond," said Mark Routt, an energy industry consultant with KBCAdvanced Technologies.
ExxonMobil holds a 50 percent stake in the new wells, the other 50 percent of which is shared between Eni Petroleum and Petrobras. However, at a water depth of 7,000 feet and with government regulations still squeezing Gulf activity, production from the wells could be years away.