Royal Dutch Shell announced that it has decided to proceed with its plan to develop the world’s deepest production facility, the Stones ultra-deepwater project, in the Gulf of Mexico.

The project will include the construction and fabrication of a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel and subsea infrastructure.

Discovered in 2005, the Stones field is located in 9,500 feet (2,896 metres) of water, about 200 miles (320km) south-west of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The project is estimated to include eight US Federal Outer Continental Shelf lease blocks in the Gulf of Mexico’s Lower Tertiary geologic trend.

Shell will initiate the project with the development of two subsea production wells, which will be tied back to the FPSO vessel, and subsequently develop six additional production wells.

The company estimated that the annual peak production from the first phase of development will be around 50,000 boe/d from more than 250 million boe of recoverable resources. Shell said the Stones field has vast upside potential and is expected to contain more than two billion boe of oil in place.

"Stones field is located in 9,500 feet (2,896 metres) of water, about 200 miles (320km) south-west of New Orleans, Louisiana."

The FPSO design will enable safe development and production from the ultra-deepwater discovery, as well as allow focusing on the relative lack of infrastructure, seabed complexity and unique reservoir properties.

Under the project, tankers will transport oil from the Stones FPSO to US refineries, while gas will be transported by pipelines.

Shell Upstream Americas Deepwater executive vice president, John Hollowell, said: "This important investment demonstrates our ongoing commitment to usher in the next generation of deepwater developments, which will deliver more production growth in the Americas."

"We will continue our leadership in safe, innovative deepwater operations to help meet the growing demand for energy in the US," Hollowell added.

Shell has 100% interest in the Stones field and will operate the project development. The company is also in the concept selection phase for the Appomattox and Vito discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Image: The Gulf of Mexico in 3D perspective. Photo courtesy of NOAA.