Definition of a Deepwater Field Development

With the recent advances in exploration and production technology, the minimum water depth at which a deepwater field starts, has had to be redefined.

Until 10 years ago, from a European perspective the answer was simple, 200 metres and deeper, essentially the edge of the continental shelf.

When viewed globally the answer is not so simple. The Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and West Africa have seen deepwater records tumble as discoveries and production has come from depths greater than 1,000 metres. In April 1998 the record was pushed to 1,709 metres, the current deepest producing field is Marathon Oil's Camden Hills (Oct 2002) at a water depth of 2,198 metres and within the next five years the record is expected to exceed 2,500 metres. Unocal's Trident field could quickly increase the record to 2,953 metres should it come onstream in 2006..

Therefore, 200 metres is simply not considered to be deepwater anymore especially as various organisations have their own definitions ranging beyond 500 metres. To take this into account we have drawn the limit for the definition of "deepwater" in the Deepwater online database at 300 metres.

The simple graph below shows the worldwide trend in maximum water depths within each year band.



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