The Whale deep-water field is located in the Alaminos Canyon in the US part of the Gulf of Mexico. Discovered in 2017, the oil field is operated by Royal Dutch Shell which holds a 60% stake, while the remaining 40% interest is held by Chevron.

The Whale field is considered to be one of the biggest oil field discoveries by the Royal Dutch Shell in the recent past.

The final investment decision (FID) on the field development was originally expected in late 2020 which has been deferred to 2021 due to the fall in oil prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Location, discovery and reservoir details

The Whale field is located in the Alaminos Canyon Block 772, approximately 320km southwest of Houston in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico. It is situated in approximately 2,440m-deep waters near the Shell-operated Silvertip field.

The oil field was discovered by the Whale deep-water discovery well approximately 16km away from the Shell-operated Perdido spar platform.

The exploration well was drilled to a depth of approximately 7000m and encountered a net oil pay of 427m in the Paleogene play. It was followed by the drilling of the appraisal and side-track wells that was completed in March 2018.

The Whale offshore oil field is estimated to hold approximately 357 million barrels of oil equivalent (Mboe) resources, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Whale oil field development

The Whale field development partners are planning to deploy a semi-submersible floating production unit (FPU) in the Whale field. The construction of the FPU was started with a steel-cutting ceremony held in February 2020.

The FPU construction and integration are expected to be completed in 2022.

The field development entered into the define phase in August 2019, according to Shell annual report. The define phase will be followed by project execution and project operation.

Whale floating production unit

The Whale FPU will comprise a topside module atop a four-column semi-submersible hull. The height of the hull will be 51m and the total weight of the FPU will be approximately 25,000t.

The topside will be assembled and commissioned on ground level at the Sembcorp Marine Tuas Boulevard Yard in Singapore. It will then be lifted by the cranes and integrated to the hull in a single lift.

Contracts awarded

Sembcorp Marine Rigs & Floaters, a subsidiary of Sembcorp Marine, was contracted to construct and integrate the hull and topside of the Whale semi-submersible floating production unit (FPU) in November 2019. Sembcorp Marine had earlier won a contract to build an FPU for Shell-operated Vito deep-water field in the Gulf of Mexico in May 2018.

Deep Down received a contract for the design, engineering, and manufacturing of a riser isolation valve (RIV) control system and subsea production equipment in February 2020. The RIV will be installed on the FPU.