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Hebron Oil Project, Canada

Key Data

Hebron is a heavy oilfield lying 350km south-east of the Newfoundland and Labrador capital St John's, in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin in a water depth of 92m. It is the province's fourth offshore development – after Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose – and consists of the Hebron, West Ben Nevis and Ben Nevis fields.

The field is operated by ExxonMobil, which has a 36% interest in the project. ExxonMobil took control of the project from Chevron in October 2008.

The joint venture partners in the field development are Chevron Canada Resources (26.7%), Petro-Canada (22.7%), StatoilHydro (9.7%) and the public sector company Energy Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (ECNL, 4.9%). ECNL got stake in the project after the joint venture partners signed a co-development agreement with the provincial government in August 2008 to give the province a share of the field's revenues.

The province is paying C$110m for the stake, which could give Newfoundland a total return of C$20bn.

Hebron early history

"Discovered in 1981, the Hebron project has been plagued by delays."

Discovered in 1981, the project has been plagued by delays. In 2002 it was shelved by original operator Chevron because of low oil prices and 'technical difficulties'. In 2004 Chevron considered a C$1bn plan to build an undersea pipeline to tie Hebron back to Hibernia.

In 2006 efforts to kickstart the development ran into trouble after the Newfoundland Government demanded greater provincial benefits from the project.

The province is paying C$110m for its stake in Hebron, which could give Newfoundland a total return of about C$20bn. As far as development costs for the project are concerned, ExxonMobil has no plans to release estimates in the near term.

Development of the Hebron field

Estimated recoverable reserves in Hebron are put at 400m to 700m barrels of 18-25º API oil, making it the second-largest field in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin after Hibernia.

The initial development is expected to be the Hebron and the West Ben Nevis fields, with future potential for development of Ben Nevis. Plans call for first oil before the end of 2017, if not sooner, reaching a peak of about 150,000bpd to 170,000bpd within the first few years of start-up.

To keep to this timeline and meet the deadline for first oil, the development partners plan to submit a development application to the provincial government by the end of 2010. Some of these details were announced by ExxonMobil in November 2008, against the backdrop of the global financial crisis and falling oil prices.

Hebron gravity-based structure (GBS)

Oil from the field will be produced through a huge concrete gravity-based structure (GBS). The GBS remains fixed to the ocean's floor through gravity alone, with integrated drilling and production topsides. It will have capacity to store 1.45 million barrels of oil in storage compartments.

"Because the Hebron GBS will sit in a treacherous area, it will need protection."

Because the Hebron GBS will sit in a treacherous area known as Iceberg Alley, it will need protection, as does Hibernia. The Hibernia GBS has an ice belt 15m thick, which includes a 1.4m-thick external ice wall. The star-shaped ice wall also has 16 sharp teeth, which distribute the force of an iceberg impact over the surface of the structure.

The Hebron GBS will be built at the province's Bull Arm construction yard, where the Hibernia GBS was built. Engineering and design work is expected to take place between 2009 and 2012, with detailed engineering procurement to begin between 2012 and 2016.

Fabrication is due to start by 2012, hitting a peak by 2015.

Hebron contractors

In November 2010, Kiewit-Aker Contractors was awarded the contract to carry out front end engineering and design (FEED) for the GBS. The contract also includes an option to provide detailed engineering, procurement and construction services.

A $61m FEED contract for topsides of the GBS was awarded to WorleyParsons in September 2010. WorleyParsons will provide overall project management and award subcontracts to third parties. The works are expected to be completed by 2011.

The Hebron Oil Project concept.
The oil from Hebron will be offloaded to shuttle tankers for transport to the existing distribution system.
In 2002 the Hebron oil project was shelved by original operator Chevron because of low oil prices and 'technical difficulties'.