BHP is to expand production at the Atlantis Phase 3 project in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, after securing board approval for $696m in funding.

The latest development comes after BP was sanctioned as the operator of the project last month.

Located 208km off the coast of Louisiana, US, the project will involve subsea tie-back of eight new production wells that will be drilled and completed to access infill resource opportunities.

It will make use of existing infrastructure, production ullage and marketing agreements.

“The project will further expand the Atlantis field and will provide cost-efficient, near term volumes.”

The first production from the Atlantis Phase 3 project is expected next year and estimated to increase production by approximately 38,000boe/d gross at its peak.

BHP Petroleum Operations president Steve Pastor said: “The Atlantis Phase 3 project provides a competitive opportunity to deliver on our strategy to grow resources in Tier 1 conventional deepwater assets. The project will further expand the Atlantis field and will provide cost-efficient, near term volumes.”

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BHP holds a 44% interest in the Atlantis field and the remaining 56% is held by BP.

The BHP board has also approved $256m in funding for the drilling of an additional appraisal well (3DEL), which is expected in the second half of this year.

The funding will also be used to carry out further studies in the Trion field in Mexico.

The 3DEL appraisal well and studies are aimed at confirming the volume and composition of hydrocarbons near the crest of the Trion structure.

Pastor added: “A further appraisal well at Trion, following the recent encouraging results at the 2DEL appraisal well, reduces investment risk and adds value to this project. If Trion is determined to be commercial, these funds will also provide an option to potentially accelerate development of Trion.”

BHP operates Trion with a 60% interest, while Pemex holds the remaining 40% stake.