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BHP Billiton today announced the ramp up of oil and gas production from the Atlantis field development located in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, approximately 130 miles (208 kilometres) off the coast of Louisiana. Production commenced with the commissioning of wells and facilities in October 2007. With gas facilities and export pipelines now fully commissioned, gas sales have started and oil volumes are increasing. Additional wells will continue to be brought onstream, and the facility is expected to reach plateau production over the next six to 12 months.

The Atlantis field development has encountered and managed numerous technical challenges associated with being the deepest moored facility in the world. The field comprises five blocks, Green Canyon 699, 700, 742, 743 and 744, where water depths range from 4,400 to 7,100 feet (1,338 to 2,158 metres). BHP Billiton holds a 44 per cent interest in Atlantis with BP, the operator, holding the remaining 56 per cent.

“The Atlantis South field is a significant hydrocarbon resource. Although we have considerable drilling remaining, we are pleased to begin oil and gas production from this world-class field,” said J. Michael Yeager, Chief Executive for BHP Billiton Petroleum. “BHP Billiton’s production from the Gulf of Mexico is set for a dramatic increase in the years ahead, and Atlantis is a key part of that growth.”

The Atlantis production platform has nameplate processing capacity of 200,000 barrels of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas per day. Crude oil from Atlantis is transported to markets onshore via the Caesar pipeline (in which BHP Billiton has a 25% equity share), to the Ship Shoal 332B platform, where there are multiple pipeline connections that allow the oil to directly reach major U.S. markets and pipeline interconnections. Natural gas from Atlantis is exported via the Cleopatra pipeline (where BHP Billiton has a 22% equity share), to the Ship Shoal 332A platform, where it will interconnect with Manta Ray Gathering System, and from there to the Nautilus Gas Transportation System into Louisiana.

The Atlantis field was discovered by the joint venture in 1998. The cost to achieve plateau production at Atlantis is estimated at US$1.63 billion, net to BHP Billiton.

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