First oil production has commenced ahead of schedule from the BHP Billiton operated Pyrenees project, offshore Western Australia. The full project involves 13 subsea wells, an extensive subsea gathering system and a Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facility, with production capacity of approximately 96,000 barrels of oil and gas reinjection capacity of 60 million cubic feet of gas per day (100 per cent basis). As planned, the wells will be drilled and brought on in phases, with approximately half the field ramping up from first oil and the other half over the next six months.

J. Michael Yeager, Chief Executive BHP Billiton Petroleum, said the Pyrenees project is a very technically challenging development that has been executed extremely well and will make a significant contribution to Petroleum’s worldwide operations and production volumes.

“Given the complexity of the project, the early start-up of Pyrenees is an outstanding achievement and another major accomplishment from our project development and drilling organisations.”

In July 2007, BHP Billiton and joint venture partner Apache Corporation sanctioned the WA-42-L portion of the Pyrenees development at a cost of approximately US$1.7 billion (BHP Billiton’s share approximately US$1.2 billion). When sanctioned, first production was planned during the first half of calendar year 2010. The project has an estimated production life of 25 years.

“This is the second development operated by BHP Billiton to commence production from the southern Carnarvon Basin offshore Western Australian in a little over two years, following the start up of the Stybarrow field in 2007. Learnings from the Stybarrow development have been incorporated into the Pyrenees development contributing to the excellent performance,” added Mr. Yeager.

The Pyrenees project is located approximately 45 kilometres (27 miles) off the coast of Exmouth, Western Australia, and approximately 20 kilometres (12 miles) east from BHP Billiton’s operated Stybarrow development.