BP shed some light on its growth plans this week in announcing that it has amassed the biggest fleet of Gulf of Mexico drilling rigs in its history.
The largest Gulf operator also said it’s planning to pump at least $4 billion into the U.S. offshore region every year over the next decade, clarifying where the company expects its future growth, a question that has agitated investors for months.
“They really haven’t explained where they’re going over the next three to five years,” said Brian Youngberg, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co., and the uncertainty has weighed on BP’s stock price.
“They can’t just say, ‘We’re going to get the growth going again, believe us,’ ” he said.
Still, it’s another sign the skies are clearing over the Gulf more than three years after BP’s Macondo well blew out in April 2010, killing 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and triggering the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
Melancholy swept the industry when the government instituted a three-month deep-water drilling moratorium.
But as international oil giants including BP bump operations, the region’s daily production could rise by 180,000 barrels to 1.55 million barrels next year, and in three years, the Gulf could beat its 2009 peak production of 1.8 million barrels per day, according to research firm Wood Mackenzie.
BP said it boosted its Gulf fleet to a record nine rigs when in recent weeks it contracted one of Seadrill’s new ultradeep-water drillships and repaired the rig on a production platform that was damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
The two rigs reflect “the vital importance of the deep-water Gulf of Mexico to the future of BP,” said Richard Morrison, the company’s regional president for the Gulf.