Exxon began exploratory drilling at the Hadrian prospect in 2009. The company had finished two wells at the site, located about 250 miles off the Louisiana coast in 7,000 feet of water, and had a rig on location and an approved permit to drill a new well when operations were halted due to the temporary moratorium after the BP oil spill last year.The announcement came on the same day as a surprise announcement from the OPEC meetings in Vienna that the member states would leave production levels unchanged, causing a jump in oil prices.
In March, federal regulators signed off on Exxon's revised permit to drill the new well in the Keathley Canyon area of the Gulf, the company's first approved under the new regulatory regime put in place after last year's spill. The new well extends about 23,000 feet below the sea surface, and the rig is continuing to drill deeper, said company spokesman Patrick McGinn.
"We estimate a recoverable resource of more than 700 million barrels of oil equivalent combined in our Keathley Canyon blocks," Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company, said in a statement. "This is one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in the last decade. More than 85 percent of the resource is oil with additional upside potential."
OPEC officials said that because of a policy deadlock, the group will maintain present output ceilings with the option of meeting within the next three months to consider a hike.Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Algeria and Qatar were reportedly in favor of production increases while Iran, Venezuela, Angola, Ecuador and Iraq were opposed.
"We are unable to reach consensus to ... raise our production," OPEC Secretary General Abdullah Al-Badri told reporters, in comments reflecting unusual tensions in the 12-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi called it "one of the worst meetings, we've ever had," while analysts covering OPEC for more than 20 years said they could not remember any other time that the normally closed group had admitted to such divisions in its ranks.
Some even saw the abortive meeting as a harbinger of demise for the organization, which produces more than a third of the world's petroleum.
"OPEC is ... on the point of break-up," said Marc Ostwald of Monument Securities. "A broader perspective is that the post World War II world order is fracturing in a spectacular fashion, be it the EU/Eurozone, the World Bank/IMF, (or) OPEC."
Other experts were less outspoken but agreed Wednesday's outcome would weaken the image of OPEC as a major regulator of oil markets.
The news caught markets by surprise, sending oil prices sharply higher. Benchmark crude for July delivery was up $1.25 to $100.34 per barrel in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after trading lower ahead of the OPEC meeting.
Saudi Arabia and other influential Gulf nations had pushed to increase production ceilings to calm markets and ease concerns that crude was overpriced for consumer nations struggling with their economies. Those opposed were led by Iran, the second-strongest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Oil minister Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela- like Iran, a price hawk - said there was a "very tight" discussion in OPEC, in comments to his nation's state media. Any production increase "could cause a collapse of our price," he added.
While the Saudis and the Iranians are frequently at loggerheads over pricing, past meetings normally fell in behind Saudi Arabia, which produces the lion's share of OPEC output. But this time, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry combined with major political and economic uncertainties to lead to deadlock.