Oil major BP intends to be the first to drill in Angola's ultra-deep waters this October, a senior company official said.
"We plan to drill in block 31 towards the end of October," according to a BP general manager and associate president.
BP has a 26.7 percent operating share in the 6,562-ft. (2,000-m) deep block 31, one of three ultra-deep concessions awarded in 1999. It abuts the billion-barrel finds in Exxon-Mobil's block 15.
BP officials said the northern part of block 31 would be the priority and that drilling would likely be at a depth of 5,906 ft. (1,800 m) in tertiary sediment.
"We're looking for similar discoveries that have been found in the lower Congo basin territory," the officials said.
Crushing pressures and cold water combine to push drilling in ultra-deep waters to the edge of industry technology. Robots and automated wells are common.
The company has a commitment to drill four wells in four years. It has invested about one billion dollars in the southwest African country since 1990 and intends to invest $7 billion more over the next decade.
Other stakeholders in block 31 are Exxon-Mobil (25 percent); Angolan state oil company Sonangol (20 percent); Norway's Statoil (13.3 percent); Marathon (10 percent); and France's TotalFinaElf (five percent).
Exxon-Mobil and TotalFinaElf operate the two other ultra-deep blocks 32 and 33. It is estimated that the partners paid more than $900 million in signature bonuses for the three blocks.
While production is scheduled for early 2006, officials said it was too early to estimate the number of barrels per day, although the range could be 50,000 to 250,000.
"We hope to be in detailed engineering by the end of this year," the company said in a statement.
"We're looking for the most efficient development of the six fields."