NEW YORK - Exxon Mobil Corp. disclosed details Wednesday of an oil and gas field that could prove to be one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in recent years.
The oil giant said three discoveries at its exploration project 250 miles southwest of New Orleans have the combined potential for more than 700 million barrels of recoverable oil and gas equivalent.
Louisiana congressional delegation members hailed the find, the first since the Obama administration issued a five-month ban on drilling instituted after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil leak.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, spent some of his day Wednesday pumping gas at a Chevron station in his district to emphasize the near-$4-a-gallon price of gas.
“In order to lower the price of gas at the pump and decrease our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, it is vital that we are allowed to explore safely for our own domestic resources, while creating thousands of high-paying jobs in the process,” Scalise said in a statement.
Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss said he couldn’t recall a discovery reported recently that was on Exxon’s scale.
He said there are some deep-water wells of significant size in the region, including Chevron Corp.’s Tahiti project with an estimated total recoverable resources of 400 million to 500 million barrels of oil and gas equivalent.
BP has a stake in a number of wells such as the Tiber project, which is expected to be one of the largest discoveries in the U.S.
Weiss said BP hasn’t announced how much it will be able to recover yet.
BP also operates Thunder Horse, a deep-water well designed to process 250,000 barrels of oil per day.
Exxon said plans to drill last year were halted after the U.S. imposed a temporary ban on deep-water drilling because of the devastating oil leak in the Gulf south of Louisiana.
The company adjusted its drilling plan to meet new federal guidelines and regulators approved its permit on March 22.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, of New Iberia, sits on the House Natural Resources Committee that recently authored legislation expanding drilling and quickening the permit process.
“I’m not surprised Exxon found oil where it said it would find oil,” Landry said in a statement. If the Obama administration “would be more proactive in removing barriers rather than impeding the permitting process - especially when it involves companies who have proven to drill safely in the Gulf of Mexico like Exxon - then we would be further down the road in weaning America off foreign oil and reducing our energy prices.”
The latest well was drilled in 7,000 feet of water and is continuing to explore deeper.
Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Co., said more than 700 million barrels of oil equivalent could be tapped by underwater wells in the region.
In May, Noble Energy Inc. announced it had discovered oil as part of a continuing drilling operation in the Gulf.
Exxon is the operator and majority owner of the Keathley Canyon well. Eni Petroleum US and Petrobras America Inc. hold minority stakes in the operation.