Oil company finds hidden trove of oil in Gulf of Mexico

British oil company BP has discovered 200 million barrels of oil in a hidden cache in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to advanced imaging of geological formations.

The Houston Chronicle reported the oil reserve about 150 miles from New Orleans is potentially worth $2 billion in recoverable oil.

The oil reserves were discovered with the help of a new supercomputer and mathematical algorithm to interpret the seismic data, which oil companies use to map features below the earth, in a new way. The technological advancement let scientists see beyond a salt dome, which distorts seismic waves.

Xukai Shen developed the algorithm used by the supercomputer, which took two weeks to produce the detailed image that led to the discovery. An analysis of the area would have taken at least a year through traditional methods.

"It produced the best image of the field we've ever seen," said John Etgen, the project's principal researcher. "We basically fell out of our chairs."

The advanced imaging method could save drillers hundreds of millions of dollars in false starts and dry wells, and also prevent them from missing oil hidden within reach of exiting platforms and pipelines.

However, some analysts and economists predict the demand for oil may wane soon, forcing companies to leave billions of barrels of oil in the ground. BP recently shifted its focus to cleaner-burning natural gas.

The company is now assessing how to start drilling for the recently discovered oil.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com