What's Ahead

Evolving Deepwater Frontiers

Todd B. Willis, Editor-in-Chief, The Way Ahead

“Deep water” is an ever-evolving term in our industry. The earliest offshore wells, in the early 1900s, were drilled much like land wells, with the rig simply suspended above the water on a pier built to extend from the shoreline. Water depths for these earliest wells were usually no more than 20 feet. Compare that to today’s state-of-the-art drillships, such as Transocean’s Discoverer Deep Seas, that are capable of drilling in 12,000 feet of water. What will be the definition of deepwater drilling 20 years from now, considering that the ocean’s deepest known point, the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean at the southern end of the Mariana Trench, is estimated to be approximately 36,000 feet below sea level?

This issue of The Way Ahead sets out to explore the current state, and future development of, deepwater assets. The challenges presented by this “last frontier” of the oil and gas industry are many; that was made abundantly clear with the tragic events in 2010 of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the US Gulf of Mexico. But the challenge and promise that deepwater assets hold go far beyond just drilling the well—advancing technology will allow us to deal with pressures and temperatures that today’s technology simply cannot tolerate; geopolitical issues will arise that need to be contended with when rival countries lay claim to unexplored (and ambiguously staked) territories; finding and proving the reserves will be problematic; and the industry will need to generate the vast capital outlays and financing needed to undertake the inherent risk in such an environment. All these factors ensure that “deep water,” whatever that term may mean in the future, will remain a fascinating operating environment.

We are happy to have 2013 SPE President Egbert Imomoh share his thoughts with us in this issue. I had the privilege of meeting him at a YP event at the 2012 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, and he seems genuinely interested in the next generation of petroleum professionals.

Our first 2013 issue also welcomes many new faces to TWA. Be sure to check out the newest members of the TWA family on our editorial roster. And if you’re interested in joining the TWA team, be sure to reach out to us. (See the TWA InterAct page for information on how to apply as an editor.) I hope we can welcome you to the TWA editorial board in the January 2014 issue.

Finally, I would like to thank our outgoing editor-in-chief, Max Medina, for all he has done for TWA and for me in his more than 4 years with TWA. I’ll save the usual clichés about “trying to fill his shoes” and instead say I have always valued Max’s advice and friendship. I learned a lot from him, and I consider him both a mentor and a friend. All of us here at TWA wish him the best.