Subsea problems delay Petrobras' start-up of Cascade-Chinook FPSO in the deepwaters of the Gulf of Mexico

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The anticipated production start-up of the US Gulf of Mexico’s first-ever Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel has been delayed. 

The Petrobras-operated Cascade-Chinook deepwater field development was cleared for the commencement of production by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) two weeks ago, but a problem with the buoyancy can on the Chinook Free Standing Riser has delayed the start-up. 

“On March 23, 2011, Petrobras America, Inc. notified the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement that a buoyancy can had become separated from its Chinook Free Standing Hybrid Riser,” Eileen Angelico, BOEMRE chief of public affairs office for the Gulf of Mexico, told PennEnergy

According to the BOEMRE, the buoyancy can allows the riser to maintain the desired water depth and is separate from the FPSO facility. Therefore, the subsea issue does not involve any production, and no oil is present. 

Per protocol, the adjacent well was shut-in, and the buoyancy can was located and recovered. The BOEMRE responded to the event and are currently investigating the incident. 

With both fields located in the deepwaters of Walker Ridge Block 425, the Cascade-Chinook development was originally slated for first production in June of 2010. An innovative solution for the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico, the FPSO vessel can be detached from its wells and move out of the way of oncoming storms. 

A phased development, the Cascade-Chinook FPSO is capable of processing up to 80,000 barrels of oil and 500,000 cubic meters of gas a day.

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