Offshore/subsea systems

What You Don’t Know About Chevron’s New 20K Anchor Project

Chevron recently revealed new details about its first-of-a-kind deepwater development in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve picked some of the most interesting to share with you here.

The Anchor floating production unit ready for final assembly on the Texas shoreline.
The Anchor floating production unit ready for final assembly on the Texas shoreline.
Source: Chevron.

After overcoming the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and closing significant technology and regulatory gaps, Chevron’s $5.7 billion Anchor project in the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is nearly ready to start producing oil.

When it finally does, it will mark the start of the “20K” era for the deepwater oil and gas industry. The term 20K refers to the project’s core technologies, designed to handle wellhead pressures of up to 20,000 psi—a first for the subsea market.

The advancement opens the door to previously inaccessible reservoirs by stretching the boundary of deepwater technology beyond the technical limit of 15,000 psi established in the past decade.

In particular, the drive to reach such extremes is a response to the demands posed by the Lower Tertiary Wilcox play which Chevron pioneered the development of in 2014 with its Jack/St. Malo project.

Output from the high-pressure, low-permeability, and ultradeep formation is expected to rise from last year’s 270,000 B/D to around 750,000 B/D by 2028. This would represent a shift from 13% to nearly 40% of the US GOM’s total of roughly 2 million B/D, according to Enverus Intelligence Research.

The success of just a handful of projects like Anchor is crucial for achieving these projections.

Located approximately 140 miles offshore Louisiana in about 5,000 ft of water, Chevron holds a 62.8% share in the project, with TotalEnergies owning the remaining interest.

The initial phase includes seven wells targeting reservoir depths between 30,000 and 34,000 ft. Chevron has drilled three so far.

Anchor’s semisubmersible floating production unit (FPU) arrived in the GOM last year after its hull was built in South Korea and topsides integrated along the Texas coast.

The FPU has nameplate capacity of 75,000 B/D but upon delivery, Chevron determined it could make small modifications to boost the facility’s peak throughput to 86,000 B/D—an almost 15% increase.

At this year’s Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Chevron’s Anchor project team offered a behind-the-scenes look at their journey to the precipice of first oil.

Drawing from several papers they presented, here are some of Anchor’s biggest challenges and achievements.

A Project of Firsts

The nature of the Anchor project is such that it involves a number of industry firsts and records.

At the top of that list is Transocean’s Deepwater Titan drillship which Chevron inked a 5-year $830 million contract for while it was still under construction in 2018. The rig began operations in the GOM in June 2023 as the second eighth-generation drillship ever built but holds claim to being the first ever rated for 20K operations.

Originally planned to be a 15K-rated vessel, the Deepwater Titan was upgraded on Chevron’s request to host two NOV-supplied 20,000-psi blowout preventers (BOPs). Combined with the lower marine riser package, the BOP stack weighs in at more than 1.1 million lbs.

Chevron points out in OTC 35148 that the BOPs were not needed to drill the wells—for that, 15,000‑psi BOPs would have sufficed—but they were required for well control during the completion phase when hydrocarbons are most likely to flow to surface.

Additionally, the Deepwater Titan boasts a hoisting capacity of 3.4 million lbs which is around 20% greater than the highest-specification seventh‑generation drillship.

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